Harold L. McElroy, lifetime Montanan and long-time Great Falls resident, died on the morning of Dec. 24, 2020 of complications from Covid-19. Harold had reached his 102nd birthday just 18 days earlier.
Harold was born Dec. 6, 1918 in Denton, Montana to Lillian (Schrader) McElroy and Robert McElroy. Harold was the third of five children – including Roy G. “Bud”, Robert Willis “Will”, Richard “Dick”, and Dorothy. While working part-time, Harold attended Billings Polytechnic (now Rocky Mountain). But his higher education was interrupted when he and a buddy, George Ingebo, enlisted in the Army Air Corps on July 4, 1941. On December 1, 1941 a convoy of ships carrying Harold and his fellow enlistees docked at Pearl Harbor. They shipped out on December 2 and were nearing the international dateline when news arrived of the disastrous attack on Pearl Harbor. Harold became a gunner/photographer on a combat B-24 in the China/Burma theatre. While manning a belly gun, Harold was wounded by pursuit gunfire, for which he was awarded the Purple Heart. Shortly thereafter he was returned to the states.
Back home in Montana in January 1945, Harold was employed by Denton High to teach and to coach basketball. There he met and married LaVonne Marie Campbell, who was teaching Home Economics and coaching cheerleaders. Harold and LaVonne moved to Missoula in 1946, where he used his GI Bill benefits to attain a master’s degree in History. Their first child, Kenneth, was born there. Upon Harold’s graduation both he and LaVonne were hired to teach in Great Falls. Harold began a 35-year career at Great Falls High School, teaching history (Montana and Northwest history specialty) and eventually managing the school’s audio-visual aids department and overseeing the installation of closed-circuit television in the school.
LaVonne eventually became a stay-at-home mother, and they were blessed with three more children: Dennis (1950-2013), Deborah, and Kevin. LaVonne preceded Harold, passing in 1991.
Harold was the last survivor of the “Denton McElroys, and as the dean of our family reunions, will be dearly missed. He leaves behind nieces and nephews: Don McElroy, Patty McElroy Sleasman, Robert C. McElroy, Mary Lynne McElroy Whitehurst, Nancy McElroy, Karen Chism, Mark Brosseau, and Chris Brosseau. Harold is also survived by his children Kenneth (Bonnie) of Helena, Deborah (Pete) of Colstrip and Park City, and Kevin (Debra); two grandchildren Shannon McElroy Scanson (Justin) of Las Vegas and Sean McElroy of Helena; as well as two great grandchildren Camryn and Kellen Scanson. He was preceded in death by grandson, Matthew McElroy.
Harold was a Montanan to the core. He loved hunting, fishing, camping, and anything outdoors in the Big Sky Country. He will be remembered by many generations of students who passed through the halls of Great Falls High School and by colleagues – many of whom were his hunting and fishing buddies. Rest in peace, Dad. We love you and will miss you dearly.
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