Each Memorial Day, La Cañada Flintridge residents recognize area veterans in a poignant ceremony held as part of Fiesta Day festivities.
Cal Elshoff — a Bronze Star recipient for his service in the Korean War — is a regular at the memorial service, joining dozens of others who introduce themselves to appreciative applause.
“Memorial Day is a very important day for me,” Elshoff, 89, said during a conversation at his La Cañada Flintridge home, where he and his wife, Irene, have lived for 63 years. “I get to meet guys who were also in the service, and I’m surprised at some of the people that are there.”
He and all other service members also will be recognized by a grateful nation on Veterans Day this Saturday.
A gentle, artistic man, Elshoff’s story began in New Knoxville, Ohio, where he learned carpentry and was close with his brother; as boys, they lost their mother to appendicitis.
Later, he and Irene met at church. They were married in 1952, just after learning that Cal had been drafted.
“Right before our wedding, his stepmother called and said that he had been drafted and would have to report in 12 days,” Irene said. “So we went on our honeymoon to New York and then went back to his hometown and he went into the service while I finished school.”
Cal Elshoff has varied memories of the war, including some that sadden him deeply, involving the loss of beloved fellow soldiers and officers.
A Sgt. 1st Class in the Army, his role in the fighting involved using his architectural training to assist in operations and planning.
He would take a piece of acetate and overlay it on a map — most of which were maddeningly outdated, he said — onto which operational plans were drawn. That acetate overlay was then rolled up and delivered to those on the front lines, according to information passed down to daughter Cindy Lupica, who still lives in LCF and works as general counsel for Allen Lund Co.
After the Korean War, Elshoff returned to the University of Cincinnati, where he earned a degree in architecture. Following a stop in Grand Rapids, Michigan, he and Irene made their way to La Cañada Flintridge, following the suggestion of a friend who lived nearby.
Elshoff worked as an architect for a time, when he helped design the roof of the Forum in Inglewood, before starting his own business, Design Materials. The floor covering operation — now run by daughter Julie — was launched in their home on Hill Street.
“We started it in the guest house, and I was the secretary,” Irene Elshoff said. “We have a phone in the laundry room that had a separate number, which we still have, and that was the business phone.”
Eventually, the business expanded from providing residential materials to projects for larger commercial clients, such as Hilton.
“But when we started,” Irene recalls, “we handled small, residential jobs, delivering materials all over the place.”
The Elshoffs raised five children in LCF: Matt, Cindy, Heather, Jen and Drew.
Matt Elshoff — “Father Matt” to the community at St. Francis High School, from which he graduated in 1973 — worked at the school for many years, in many capacities. His titles included president, as well as teacher, campus ministry leader and director of admissions. He departed after being elected as Provincial by peers in the Capuchin Franciscan Order’s Western American Province.
Elshoff is proud of his eldest son and all of his children, he said, and of his grandchildren, including the granddaughter he lost unexpectedly 13 years ago.
The Army veteran remains a sensitive man, his family said, emotional and kind-hearted.
“He doesn’t drive anymore, we drive him around now, but before, every day when he would come home from work, he would say, ‘Do you need anything from the store?’ Cindy said. “He’s always been a do-er and a helper, to this day, just ready to help.
“And,” she added, “he just cries throughout concerts, he’s just so moved by the music.”
He’s heartened, too, he said, by the yearly acknowledgements — on Veterans Day and on Memorial Day — of the sacrifices made by soldiers like him during wartime.
“It’s very important,” Elshoff said. “It makes me feel great.”