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Richard Clement Elwell

Minister, grandfather, devoted missionary

Much loved husband, father, grandfather, son and brother, Richard Clement Elwell died October 13. “Full of faith in God, he bravely fought liver disease while waiting for a liver transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Florida,” his family shared. He was 66 years old.

Richard was born June 12, 1952, to Charles and Dorothy Elwell of Claremont. He attended Sycamore Elementary School, El Roble Middle School, Claremont High School, Citrus College and graduated from Cal Poly Pomona, later earning a master’s of divinity from the International School of Theology.

In 1976, his sister Mary introduced him to Martha (Marty) Ann Todd. Mary was dating Marty’s brother Rick at the time. Both couples married the summer of 1977 and collectively produced nine double cousins. 

The newlyweds started their married life on the campus of Claremont Collegiate School, (now Western Christian Schools) where Mr. Elwell taught. He later worked with youth at the California Division of Juvenile Justice. This experience set a fire in his heart to help people learn to live a better life. “Richard’s idea of a better life was one that believed and applied the truth of God’s word in the Bible,” his family said.

In 1987, after becoming an ordained minister, he and his wife founded University Park Church, where he served as lead pastor for 31 years until his retirement in April, 2018. Mr. Elwell had a passion for truth and an acute mind, his family shared, and this combination put him in the perfect position to help change the direction of countless lives. “Marriages have been saved,” his family said. “People have been set free from resentment, addiction and falsehoods.”

Mr. and Mrs. Elwell also led their congregation in short-term missionary work in places such as Peru, where they worked with the poorest of the poor, and in Myanmar and Thailand, where they helped to establish safe homes for children endangered by sex trafficking. “Richard was a difference maker,” his family added.

He was also fun loving, and loved to surf. For 15 years he held an annual surf camp where he taught kids not only how to ride the waves, “but how loved and valuable they are to God,” his family said. He also enjoyed ceramics, and kept a potter’s wheel and kiln in his garage.

“Richard did many great things, but he would tell you that his greatest accomplishment is his family,” his family shared. “Together with Marty, Richard raised five amazing kids. He was so proud of each one of them: Christina, a professor at Cal State San Bernardino and a mother of three, Roston a mechanical engineer, Dottie, a math teacher and mother of two little girls, Marion, a missionary with Remember Nhu in Thailand, and Robert captain in the US Army. Each one of Richard’s children is committed to carrying on Richard’s legacy by living the truth that he taught them, and the example he has left behind.”

He was predeceased by his father Charles Clement Elwell.

Mr. Elwell is survived by his wife of 41 years, Martha Todd Elwell; daughters Christina Villegas, Dorothy Tarcon and Marion Elwell; sons Roston Elwell and Robert Elwell; mother Dorothy Elwell; brother Bob Elwell; sisters Mary Todd and Connie Taylor; and five grandchildren, Brooks and Coral Tarcon, and Sophia, Anna and A.J. Villegas.

His family wrote this tribute:

“Richard had a love for life, the truth and all that’s good.

Jesus he desired to serve in every way he could.

His illness sapped his mind and strength, but not his heart or will.

And in the midst of suffering, he showed God’s grace is real.

Suffering made a good man great, more humble he became,

And all because he chose to rest

In the power of Christ’s name,

For many things he will be known, a good father, son, and mate.

But his submission to God’s truth is what really made him great.

It was his hope that those he taught would follow in God’s way.

Trusting in Christ Jesus and all God has to say. 

As a family we are grateful for you comfort and your love,

Knowing his impact on you has truly honored God above.”

For those who wish to contribute in Mr. Elwell’s memory, the family suggests donations in his name to Remember Nhu at remembernhu.org/donation. Mr. Elwell cared deeply about this organization and its mission to end child sex slavery. His daughter Marion serves overseas with this group, which has spared over a thousand children from the horrors of sex trafficking.