By Art Miley
Retired World War II naval pilot Art Elder, believed to be oldest active church deacon in La Jolla, celebrated his 90th birthday on May 17. Elder was elected to a three-year term as deacon with the Mount Soledad Presbyterian Church.
“Art Elder is a great example that Christian service does not stop with retirement,” said pastor John Moser. “He heads our food drive to feed hungry people, repairs our church building with his craftsmanship skills, and welcomes people every Sunday as a greeter.” Elder serves alongside church deacons one-third his age.
He built and crafted the floor-to-ceiling wooden cross, which is the visual focal point in the church worship center. Elder is also a blood donor at church drives, where he has given 48 pints of blood over the years.
Elder earned his pilot’s license while in high school in Dallas. He joined the Navy at the onset of World War II and was engaged in numerous bombing missions in the South Pacific.
Following 25 years of naval service, he retired as a Commander. A recipient of the Navy Cross, he logged over 11,000 hours flying time and completed 464 carrier landings. He and his crews were reported to have sunk more enemy ships than any crew in the Pacific theater.
Following retirement, Elder entered Foreign Service and moved to San Diego in 1973 where he earned a degree in anthropology from UCSD. His wife of 63 years, Lois, died in 2008. In addition to serving as a church deacon, Elder remains active as a craftsman in wood-working projects.