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A renovated Sturgis Public Library was made possible by long-time Sturgis residents (now deceased) Albert and Laverene Elliott.
Courtesy Photo
A renovated Sturgis Public Library was made possible by long-time Sturgis residents (now deceased) Albert and Laverene Elliott.

A legacy of giving makes Sturgis Children's Library project possible


F.Ganje - September 12, 2019

STURGIS, SD – He was the son of an opera singer from Brooklyn. She became a war bride from a small, west Texas town. Together, they would find their way to the foothills of the Black Hills and to Fort Meade where their legacy – that continues yet today – would begin.

As the Sturgis Public Library and community prepare to celebrate a renovation to its facility, it’s the generous gift from Albert and Laverne Elliot that makes it possible.  According to son Mike Elliot, both his parents were committed to the community.

“It’s something that would mean a lot to them,” he shares, “to know that they are continuing to support arts and education in Sturgis.”

Having married Laverene in 1943 before shipping out to the Pacific Theater (he wrote to her parents apologizing for not asking for her hand in marriage first) Albert would eventually leave the army in 1946. He went to work for the Veterans Administration in west Texas.  Growing up an avid outdoorsman in upstate New York, an advertisement for a job opening in the Black Hills of South Dakota caught his attention. 

“My father came across an article in Life Magazine on the Black Hills.  He read about the hunting and fishing in the area and thought it sounded interesting” shares Mike.  “Then an opening came up at Fort Meade and in 1952, they came to Sturgis.”

Laverne came from a family of two brothers who were killed in WWII and four sisters, she being the youngest.  Strong women came out of the Baker family in Texas in those days, observes son, Mike.

“She had a very interesting life being the youngest,” says Mike. “These women were very strong women and that showed itself in my mother’s personality. Her great-great-grandmother settled in Oklahoma Territory as a child. She would see her father murdered by highwaymen. Her testimony put the outlaw’s in the hangman’s noose-immediately following the trial.” He adds, “All of the women in my mother’s family went on to get their college degree which was pretty unusual in those days.”

Mike, who grew up at Ft. Meade, attended school and graduated from Sturgis, went onto earn his degree at Harvard and his Master’s in business administration from Dartmouth. He settled in Chicago, Il with his family.

“I moved with my parents to South Dakota when I was 1 ½ years old,” shares Mike.  “So for all practical purposes I consider myself a resident and citizen of the grand state of South Dakota.”

Both of the careers of Albert – who worked for the VA for 34 years as chief of medical administration and Laverne – who was a long-time and popular teacher in the Meade School District - shaped their interests in community.

“My father was a great supporter of Sturgis.  He helped organize the Sturgis Titans baseball program, was in Rotary, a Shriner and Mason and in the Air Force Reserves” shares Mike.   “He totally shared my mother’s passion for education.”  He continues, “My mother had such a strong reputation as a teacher in Sturgis that many parents would request her for their children. The two things she said she always wanted to accomplish every year was to teach the kids to read and to make learning fun.”

The Sturgis Children’s Library Ribbon Cutting & Elliott Donor Recognition is set for Tues., September 17th beginning at 3:30p.m. Mike and Kathy Elliott will return to Sturgis to help celebrate the completion of the project.  In total, there has been $200,000 given to the library, $100,000 to the Sturgis Arts Council, and $100,000 to establish a First Responders Fund, all in memory of Albert and Laverne Elliott.

“If my parents could be here, I think they would say that giving back is like glue that holds a community together,” says Mike. “Education, literacy, art and outdoor sports programs all contribute to a sense of community which is what makes Sturgis work, in my opinion. And I think they would agree.”

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