The Rev. Elwood L. Ulmer Sr., a Marine Corps veteran, Mason and Baptist minister whose ministry for seven decades was assisting struggling churches and helping to establish new ones, died of renal failure Oct. 23 at Bonnie Blink, the Maryland Masonic Home in Hunt Valley. The former longtime Parkville resident was 95.
“Elwood’s two passions were prayer and sharing the gospel message,” said the Rev. Donald A. Klapka, pastor of Chestnut Ridge Baptist Church, where the Rev. Ulmer was an active member. “He was very lovable, and whenever I looked at him, he kind of reminded me of Burl Ives with his goatee. Anytime a visitor came to church, he’d grab his walker and thank them for coming. He affirmed visitors.”
Marlin L. Mills is the grand master of the Masonic Lodge at Bonnie Blink and was a friend for more than three decades.
“Other than just being a minister, he was a good guy,” Mr. Mills said. “In a shed, he kept clothing, shoes, furniture, and if he heard someone had lost everything in a fire, he’d take them over and made sure they got what they needed. He was always out on the street trying to help people. If there was a soup kitchen, he’d be right there helping.”
Elwood Lawrence Ulmer Sr., son of Frank Ulmer, a DuPont Co. worker, and Louella Ulmer, a homemaker, was born in Tuxedo Park, Delaware, and raised on his family’s farm in Elkton.
He left high school and enlisted in the Marine Corps, through which he was trained as an underwater demolition expert and served in Hawaii. While serving, he earned his GED diploma and was a Golden Gloves boxer.
“Marines are supposed to be tough, but he was as nice a guy as they come and just a good soul,” Mr. Mills said.
After being discharged from the service, the Rev. Ulmer found his life’s work.
“He had attended a Youth for Christ meeting and found out he wanted to pass the word and devoted his life to the church,” the Rev. Klapka said.
The Rev. Ulmer earned a bachelor’s degree from what is now Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas, and a master’s degree in theology from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He was ordained a Baptist minister in 1952 at Bethel Baptist Church in Plainview.
He pastored churches in Louisiana, and after returning to Maryland, some of the congregations he led included Linthicum Baptist Church, Parkville Baptist Church, North East Baptist Church, First Baptist Church of Essex, Loch Raven Baptist Church, Lee Street Baptist Church and Temple Baptist Church in Glen Burnie.
“He worked with struggling churches and helped start new churches, so we moved a lot and lived in different places,” said a daughter, Emily Michelsen of Davidsonville.
He retired in the 2000s from Linthicum Baptist Church, where he had returned as interim pastor.
In addition to his church work, the Rev. Ulmer was director of the Curtis Bay Feeding Ministry, worked in prison ministry and was associated with the Baltimore Rescue Mission. He did missionary work in Africa and Nicaragua, and helped build a church in Alaska.
Additionally, he was chaplain for the Maryland State Police Alumni, volunteered with Child Protective Services and the American Red Cross, and was resident manager at Camp Wo-Me-To in Jarrettsville.
“His service was perpetual,” his daughter said.
The Rev. Ulmer also conducted a racetrack ministry at Delaware Raceway in Dover, where he enjoyed clowning for local children.
“Dad served as ‘Bussie the Clown,’ always tying balloons while spreading love and joy of knowing Christ,” Ms. Michelsen said. “You could never enter a hospital without seeing an apple balloon if he had been there to visit. He made apple balloons for every worker with Psalm 17:8 inscribed, ‘Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wing.’”
In addition to clowning at the racetrack, he also regularly appeared at Tall Cedars of Lebanon pancake breakfasts, his daughter said.
“Into his 90s, he continued to teach Sunday school ... until about a year ago, when he fell and broke his neck,” the Rev. Klapka said. “He was ever-faithful when it came to passing our offering plates, and I said we could get younger people to do that because he was having knee problems. He said, ‘I want to keep on doing this until I no longer can.’ He was just an incredible man.”
The Rev. Klapka said that he’d call on his friend to lead services now and again.
“He could lead the entire congregation and never had to use or look at his notes,” he said.
The Rev. Ulmer was never without a gospel tract in his pocket, which he willingly shared with others.
“He always had them to give out,” the Rev. Klapka said. “He’d go around and ask people if they had one, and if they didn’t, he’d give them one. He wanted to share the word.”
The Rev. Ulmer had been a Mason for more than 54 years, achieving the rank of a 33rd-degree Mason. He was an active member of Pythagoras Lodge 123, the Grand Lodge of Maryland and other Masonic organizations.
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“He was our chaplain in the nursing home at Bonnie Blink,” Mr. Mills said. “He’d go room-to-room and even conducted church services. He was a man who practiced what he preached.”
The Rev. Ulmer and his wife, the former Margaret Emily Popp, whom he had married in 1952, had been residents of Bonnie Blink since 2010.
In addition to hunting and fishing, the Rev. Ulmer was an accomplished artist who worked in acrylics to create landscape paintings. He was an avid reader who engaged in daily Bible study, his daughter said.
He was a beekeeper who also enjoyed traveling, taking cruises and playing board games.
His wife, who worked as a social worker for the state and later in administration, was a former president of the Maryland State Women’s Missionary Union and the United Baptist Women of Maryland. She died last year.
A memorial service for the Rev. Ulmer will be held at 1 p.m. on Nov. 26 at Chestnut Ridge Baptist Church, located at 1010 Saters Lane, Timonium.
In addition to his daughter, the Rev. Ulmer is survived by two sons, Elwood L. Ulmer Jr. and Frank Ulmer, both of Jarrettsville; two other daughters, Susan Copenhaver of Parkville and Victoria Mottram of Suffolk County, England; three brothers, Francis “Frannie” Ulmer of Elkton, Charles “Butch” Ulmer of North East and Clarence “Sookie” Ulmer of Aladdin, Wyoming; two sisters, Roberta “Bobbie” Stigile of Chestertown and Carol Rash of Elkton; 14 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren.