Elmer Ellsworth Kirkpatrick, Jr.
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Elmer Ellsworth Kirkpatrick, Jr. was born August 17, 1905 in Yukon, Oklahoma. He was the second son born to Dr. Elmer E. and Mrs. Helene Claudia (Spencer) Kirkpatrick. While attending school, he joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and eventually earned the rank of corporal with the Oklahoma National Guard.
Elmer graduated in 1924 and, the following year June, Elmer successfully applied to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. After graduating from West Point in 1929, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant and assigned to the Quartermaster Corps of the Regular Army. Later that year he married Edith “Edie Wee” Luise Koelsch.
The couple’s daughter, Patricia, was born June 24, 1930 while the family was stationed at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The following year, Elmer attended Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and received a Civil Engineering degree. In 1932 he was assigned to Hot Springs, Arkansas where he oversaw construction of the Army/Navy General Hospital. The next year, Elmer was in Harrodsburg, Kentucky erecting the Pioneer Memorial Monument. Afterward, Elmer spent three years assigned to West Point where he worked on construction and expansion of the Academy itself.
After attending the Quartermaster School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Elmer was assigned to Fort Monmouth, New Jersey and later Fort Dupont, Delaware. On October 20, 1938, Elmer and Edie Wee’s second child, William Terry, was born at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D. C. Nearly a year later, Elmer became Area Engineer for the Atlantic Sector of the Panama Canal Zone.
Elmer remained with the Quartermaster Corps, holding a variety of responsibilities, but when military construction was moved from the Quartermaster Corps to the Corps of Engineers in 1942, Elmer chose to transfer to the Corps himself to continue his work in the Construction Division. In October 1942, Elmer was sent to Milwaukee, Wisconsin as District Engineer.
In March 1943, Elmer became Chief of Operations and Engineering for the Northwest Division of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The Division’s role was the completion of the Alaska-Canada Highway (ALCAN) and the Alaskan pipeline (CANOL project). Elmer eventually became Chief of Staff and second in command and was later awarded the Legion of Merit for his work.
In 1944, Elmer became Special Assistant and Field Inspector for General Leslie R. Groves who headed the Manhattan Project. He directed planning for field facilities needed to deliver an atomic bomb, working with Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz and General Curtis E. LeMay who commanded strategic air operations against Japan. Throughout 1945, he visited all the installations related to the Manhattan Project and oversaw all aspects related to bomb assembly, loading, and related facilities.
After the war, in November 1945 Elmer became Deputy District Engineer of the Manhattan District located at Oak Ridge, Tennessee and was promoted to Commanding Office. In January 1947, Elmer became Acting Manager of Field Operations for the newly formed Atomic Energy Commission and remained there until he returned to West Point in March where he served as Assistant Chief of Staff, Logistics for the Military Academy.
Over the next decade, Elmer returned to Washington, D.C. as Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project; worked in Japan as Head of the Construction Division for the Far East Command and Army Forces Far East; served as the District Engineer in Jacksonville, Florida; and became District Engineer of the Southern District of the Mediterranean Division with its headquarters in Livorno, Italy. After overseeing construction projects all over the world, on November 1, 1958 Colonel Elmer E. Kirkpatrick retired from the Army. Upon his retirement, Elmer’s military decorations included three Legion of Merit medals.
Elmer and his wife bought a home in Jacksonville in 1958. He eventually became an Assistant Professor in the College of Architecture at University of Florida in Gainesville. He was granted tenure on May 15, 1962.
Elmer concluded his teaching career in April 30, 1965. Years earlier, Elmer and Edie Wee moved into a new home in Melrose, Florida where they remained until 1980 when they moved to Wesley Manor in Jacksonville, Florida.
Edie Wee died August 15, 1982. Four years later, Elmer met and married Virginia Wright. The two remained married until March 26, 1990 when Elmer died at the Wesley Manor in Jacksonville, Florida.