Elmer Owen Bair
June 20, 2002
Elmer Owen Bair, of Carbondale, Colo., died Tuesday, June 18, 2002, in Carbondale. He was 103.
Mr. Bair was a sheepman, family man, a leader in his church, author, reciter of poetry, and an exceptional storyteller. A respected man in Western Colorado, he was known for his integrity; his word was his bond. Though small in stature and “rawhide” tough, he was a spiritual giant. A friend and counselor to many, he was taught the importance of prayer as a child and relied on the guidance of the Lord throughout his life.
Elmer Bair was born on a homestead in Chesterfield, Idaho, on Feb. 1, 1899. He was the sixth of 14 children born to Joseph Elmer Bair and Eliza R. Moss Bair. His father was a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and his mother was of an early pioneer family in the church.
Elmer’s family moved to Alpine, Utah, shortly after his first birthday. He spent his childhood there. At 14, his father was called away on a church mission and Elmer, the oldest boy still at home, took over responsibility for running the family farm. Upon his father’s return, Elmer headed to Wyoming. At 16, he went to work for the Deseret Livestock Co., on a large sheep ranch in Wyoming.
There, Elmer saw his dream of becoming one of the best bronc riders in the country come true. He also learned the ins and outs of the sheep business so he could later run his own sheep ranch.
In 1919, Elmer’s father formed a partnership with George Mayne and George Dunsdon. They bought a ranch on the Colorado River above Glenwood Springs. Elmer and George Mayne took over the ranch operations. They formed a close bond and, though they had some rough experiences, were able to bring the ranch out of debt and survive the cattlemen-sheepmen wars. Elmer spent his 22nd birthday in jail on a trumped up charge by the cattlemen.
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Elmer married Ida Lorena Smith, the daughter of ranch residents and employees, on Oct. 22, 1921. They shared 73 years together and had two daughters, Laura and Lois.
In 1925, Elmer turned the ranching over to his father and his partners. For a short time he worked on the ranch in Wyoming before moving to Marble, Colo., where he worked for the Yule Marble Quarry. He was the motorman on the trolley that hauled the marble from the quarry to the town of Marble. He hauled the “big rock” of marble, a 57-ton stone, that was used in making the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (now the Tomb of the Unknowns) that was placed in Arlington National Cemetery.
In 1931 Elmer and Ida homesteaded on Cottonwood Mesa and started their own sheep business. Elmer became one of the largest sheep ranchers in Western Colorado. In 1939, the Bairs purchased their home in Carbondale, where both lived until their deaths.
Elmer had a strong faith in the Lord. He believed that he was watched over because he had survived several life-threatening illnesses and accidents. He was away from the church for 20 years and when he returned he cut his sheep herd in half so he would have time to serve his church.
In 1944, a Latter-Day Saints Church branch was organized in Glenwood Springs, and Elmer was elected the first branch president. He was instrumental in building the first Latter-Day church in Glenwood Springs, which was dedicated in 1949.
He became a counselor for the church in the Western Colorado District, which ran from Baggs, Wyo., on the north to Paradox, Colo., on the south. He later became district president and traveled more than 100 miles one way to attend meetings every Sunday in Grand Junction. When the Grand Junction stake was organized he served as patriarch. He later became patriarch of the Meeker, Colo., stake. Elmer served his church until 1990 when his health would no longer let him.
In 1960, Elmer Bair sold his sheep business. He and Ida served a church mission from 1964-65 in the Cumorah Mission in New York.
Elmer wrote his own biography, “Elmer Bair’s Story 1899-1987.” More than 3,000 copies were printed.
Elmer was preceded in death by his wife; grandsons Danny Farnum and Michael Waller; and sons-in-law Jack Farnum and Vernon Duffy.
He is survived by daughters Laura Farnum Melton and husband Leslie, of Carbondale, and Lois Duffy Waller, of Riverton, Utah; brother Elwood and wife Sherry Bair, of Riverton; seven grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; 13 great-great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 22, at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Glenwood Springs. Bishop Fred Jex will officiate. Burial will follow at Rose Bud Cemetery.
Farnum-Holt Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.