Updated: Apr 26, 2021
Colonel Loran C. Eldred (USMC - Retired), one of the original founders of The Wine Country Marines died on February 24, 2021 at his home in Sonoma, surrounded by his family and loved ones.
Colonel Eldred was born on April 20, 1933 in Berlin, Wisconsin on the family farm that was homesteaded in 1865. He graduated from University of Wisconsin, Platteville with a degree in agriculture, and immediately joined the Marine Corps in 1953. He chose to be a pilot, because: "Flying an airplane can't be that different than driving a tractor." While training at El Toro Airbase in California, he met and married the love of his life, Kay Ridgway. They celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary in January, 2021. Together they raised four children; Lori Hall, Lisa Schmitz, Lee Eldred and Les Eldred (deceased). The family lived all over the U.S. with the Marine Corps. including Laguna Beach, Texas, South Carolina, Colorado and Washington until finally settling down in Marin County in 1970. In 1983, they moved to the "House on the Hill" in Sonoma.
Colonel Loran Eldred served ten years on active duty with the USMC and 20 years in the reserves. He was a Marine Corps Aviator, a Series Commander at Parris Island, and Commander of the Reserve Air Wing at the former Naval Air Station, Alameda, Ca. Loran was a born leader and excelled as a pilot. He flew as part of the Marine's version of the Blue Angels while on active duty. Photos of jets flying in formation, taken while in flight, line the walls of his home. To quote a fellow pilot, "He was a great leader at the squadron, in the air, and at the Club!" In 1977 he traveled to Germany with General Haig as part of the NATO Conference.
After his active duty, Loran went on to fly for 30 years as a pilot for United Airlines. He loved the schedule, with lots of days off, and enjoyed taking the family on boating and camping outings. Lake Berryessa and Lake Shasta being his favorite destinations. In his later years he and Kay purchased a motor home and traveled extensively with local RV groups. He was a great man to have along, always able to repair anything with duct tape and zip ties.
Loran was involved in many organizations in Sonoma Valley.
He was a founding member of the Wine Country Marines and was also involved in the Moose Lodge, and Kiwanis. His favorite group was the Sonoma Wine & Dine Group whose motto was: "We're never asked back!". His was a champion story teller, entertaining all with his adventures both in the air, and on the ground. His dedication to his wife was immeasurable. You'd often find the two of them dancing at Sebastiani's on Friday nights or at the Tuesday Farmer's Market. He was "Papa" or "Pops", to his ten grandchildren: Travis Eldred, Austin Eldred, Brittany Eldred, Blaine Eldred, John Hall, Lindsey Hall, Tim Hall, Mary Thornton, Kevin Thornton, and Becca Thornton, and great-grandson Ari Eldred. He will be sorely missed.
A celebration of his life will be held at a later date.