Everyone knew Elmer.
In the Delta County area, it would be difficult to find a person who did not know or know of Elmer Dagenais. Elmer made a mark on the area and its people. Elmer died Monday morning at his home in Escanaba surrounded by his family. We have all suffered a loss with his passing.
Elmer was truly one of those unforgettable people who inspired others through a tireless work ethic and even more enduring love for his community and neighbors.
Elmer was part of the business community here for over 60 years. He quit school in the seventh grade. Because of hard financial times, he had to go to work. After stints in the CCCs and GM, he started a small grocery store on Stephenson Avenue. Over the decades, it eventually grew into the Elmer's County Market we know today.
Over those 60 years, Elmer touched a multitude of lives. He contributed to more charitable causes, community drives, youth sports teams and other worth causes than anyone could count. He was also a staunch supporter of 4-H, regularly purchasing livestock at the U.P. State Fair.
Just how many lives Elmer touched became very evident when he received his diploma during commencement ceremonies at Escanaba High School. After giving back to the community for so many years, school officials recognized Dagenais a few years back with a honorary high school diploma. During the ceremony, the crowd was asked how many people had worked for Dagenais over the years. Three-quarters of the people in the high school gymnasium, crowded to capacity during commencement, stood up.
That's quite a few people, and a testament to just how many men and women Elmer supplied employment to at some point in their lives. For many, that job was probably one of the first bricks in the foundation of their working lives.
The fact is, they couldn't have had a better person to set an example for them. Elmer was a tireless worker. He credited his work ethic to his time in the Civilian Conservation Corps. It stuck with him the rest of his life. The image of Elmer many people will remember is of him in his later years, bagging groceries alongside other employees, smiling and greeting customers.
On his 90th birthday, Elmer shared his secret of business success - Treat customers with respect. Appreciate their business and thank them for shopping at your store.
Wise words from a wise man who touched many lives.