One of Roseville’s oldest veterans passes away
Editor’s note: Reporter Sena Christian set out to interview one of Roseville’s oldest veterans in honor of Veterans Day today. Larry Ehrhardt had a fall and was in ill health when Christian visited him in a Roseville assisted living facility on what turned out to be the day before he died.
At the end of his life, Roseville resident Larry Ehrhardt remembered clearly a concert he attended nearly seven decades earlier in Austria during World War II.
The Mozart concert remained a good memory in his life, although many other parts of the war failed to elicit the same feelings of fondness for Ehrhardt, who passed away of pneumonia Friday at 98 years old in Roseville. He was in Austria when the Germans surrendered in 1945 and the Allied forces began liberating concentration camps.
“He went by a concentration camp and people were standing on the road all bones and flesh,” said his daughter Wanda Patrick. “He was so angry. Soldiers threw their rations to them as they passed. He said that was the maddest he ever was, when he saw those people.”
Through his daughter’s stories come a sense of a life filled with purpose and adventure.
Ehrhardt was born in 1914 in the Oak Park neighborhood of Sacramento. At 17 years old, he was tasked with becoming a source of support for his family when his father was killed in a hit-and-run accident. He had five sisters, one of whom died a day after her birth. He graduated from Sacramento High School in 1932.
During WWII, he attended University of Utah for a year to learn engineering. He was in the 271st Combat Engineers, Headquarters Company. He only saw one soldier get killed during the war and that was a man cleaning his gun.
After the war, Ehrhardt worked for the Bureau of Reclamation and soon moved the family to Fresno where he also earned his engineering degree at California State University, Fresno, and built a house.
“He did all those things,” Patrick said. “He’s pretty amazing.”
The family returned to Sacramento where her father built another house. He lost part of a finger during construction, but got back to building a few days later. He continued working for the bureau dealing with water contracts. In 1966, he had the opportunity to work for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Afghanistan — and he took it.
Ehrhardt packed up his wife, Mary, and youngest son and moved to the Middle East. He worked on irrigation projects at the Ministry of Agriculture and had young Afghans and a few American engineers training under him. His family loved living there.
After four years, they returned to Sacramento. Ehrhardt retired and he and Mary traveled often. When his wife passed away in 1998, he moved to Roseville to be closer to Patrick, who lives in Rocklin, but remained “fiercely independent,” according to his daughter.
His sons Louis and George live in Ventura County. His great-nephew Tom Russell recently spent an afternoon visiting Ehrhardt at an assisted living facility in Roseville before he died. Ehrhardt had fallen while curing olives. Russell remembers his great-uncle would often cure olives with his dad.
“He’s still pretty darn sharp at 98, let me tell you,” Russell said.
Ehrhardt attended mass at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church every Sunday with his good friend Lionel Maillet and they would eat breakfast together afterward. They considered themselves to be like brothers, Patrick said.
Roseville resident Bill Boudier met Ehrhardt more than a decade ago through the church. The two men had pancake breakfast together once a month at IHOP.
“He has a tremendous appetite,” Boudier said, prior to Ehrhardt’s passing. “He’s a great eater and a great conversationalist. … He’s such a people person. And he likes to cure olives. He’ll go find olive trees and ask to use the olives and cure them and present them to people as gifts. He’s very thoughtful that way.”