Dale Norman Elmer of Dennis, formerly of Provincetown, died Monday, September 21st at EPOCH Senior Healthcare in Brewster. He was 86.
Born on July 11, 1929 in Hebron, North Dakota, at the start of the Great Depression, young Dale lived with his two brothers, mother and father a tiny shack in the middle of the great North Dakota prairie. The winter winds would howl and hurl snow against the little shack which was heated with a stove stoked with bits of coal gleaned from the nearby mines. It was here that Dale's mother dug out a root cellar to store food. As she dug out the clay (or gumbo as it was called), she used it to form and shape tiny clay animals, and taught Dale this process. Thus, Dale's love of sculpture was born.
The winds continued to howl and ushered in the Dust Bowl. This was a sign for Dale's resourceful mother to pack up her family in a little Model T Ford and trailer and head west to the Promised Land of Wenatchee, Washington, Apple Capital of the World! Here, Dale demonstrated his enterprising ways by selling local apples from a little red wagon which he pulled around town. Dale grew up and attended Wenatchee High School where he was a broad jumper and a runner. After high school, Dale served in the Korean War and taught art classes. He attended California College of Arts and Crafts and received a Master’s in Art Education.
Soon after the war ended, Dale headed east to New York City where he began to design jewelry. He and a business partner opened a store on Broadway near Birdland, the jazz and music mecca. Here, Dale sold his designer jewelry as fast as he could create it! After several years, Dale ventured forth on his own and opened a store called 'Made Here' on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, which included the work of many other young crafters along with his own jewelry.
In the 1960's, Dale bought a building at 241 Commercial St. in Provincetown, MA, renamed it The Handcrafter, and opened his second jewelry store. This was very successful. When the old Provincetown Theatre next door went up for sale, Dale bought it, and made it into the craft mall known fondly as Whalers Wharf. Here, Dale provided the opportunity for dozens of young artists and crafters who were low on funds but high on creativity and enthusiasm to begin their artistic and business careers.
Dale was an extremely generous, kind, supportive, and genuinely caring person, He was a wonderful landlord and he was open to all kinds of crafters and artists and their creations.
Whaler's Wharf became known for its amazing variety of unique crafts. At one time, there was a myriad of portrait artists; along with candle makers; a Shell Shop; paintings on wood;
wood assemblages; stained glass; leather makers; metalsmiths; shell jewelry; a pewter shop; rocks and fossils; and on and on.
Unfortunately, the old Whaler's Wharf was destroyed in a huge fire on February 10, 1998. Its loss was mourned by the town. It's never been quite the same since. A new Whalers Wharf was erected several years after the fire, but Dale decided to retire from business. Dale spent the last fifteen years of his life sculpting extensively in clay and carving the many varieties of wood which he found in the woods on his property, on the beach, or by the roadside. He stayed creative until the very end of his life.
Dale is survived by this partner Wendy Christern, his brother Warren Elmer and his wife Jane of Seattle WA, two nieces and a nephew, as well as many close and loving friends, who have stayed close since the early days of Whalers Wharf. He also leaves his dog Lily Rose and his cat Georgia.
A Funeral Service will be held at 10:00 am Monday, September 28th at the Gately Funeral Home, 94 Harry Kemp Way, Provincetown. Burial will follow at the Provincetown Cemetery. Family and friends are invited to attend.