Elsie Erma Kulm West passed away at the age of 96 on March 31st, 2021. She was born on February 15th, 1925 in Jerome, Idaho to Jacob and Christina Kulm. She was the second youngest and last surviving of 10 children. She was baptized, Elsie Erma Kulm as an infant into the Lutheran Church on April 15th, 1925 and remained a life-long member of deep devotion to her faith her entire life.
Elsie’s parents were immigrants from the German colonies located around the Black Sea in the Ukrainian region of then Russia. Their experiences during the times of the great immigration to America in the early 20th century, her Christian faith and love of family forever shaped her and ultimately defined our family to this day remaining as her living legacy to her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.
Upon completion of her high school education in Jerome, Idaho, Elsie attended a vocational training school in nearby Twin Falls, Idaho where she learned secretarial skills that would serve her not only in her first job during the Second World War but onward in the future chapters of her life and career.
At the end of the war, like many others of her generation, she married a returning GI in 1945 and together they made a home in Twin Falls, Idaho, where their 3 children, Paula, Terry, and Gregory were born. In 1955 the family moved to San Jose in pursuit of better opportunities during the time Santa Clara Valley was beginning to transition from an agricultural area to what would become a high-tech center of the world.
Elsie joined the rapidly growing Lockheed Missiles & Space division in Sunnyvale, California, in 1958. During that time, she witnessed first-hand the change in administrative work from secretaries with typewriters to computer processing, and in her spirit of modernity, embraced the change and retired as a data analyst in 1990.
In 1977, her marriage ended, and Elsie turned the page to designing her next life chapter focusing on personal interests of family, community, and travel. She was a founding member of the Kulm Family Association that included the history and genealogy of the 8 Kulm family lines. She first served as associate director and later, as secretary-treasurer the organization. With family and friends, she traveled to Europe several times, attended the New Year’s Imperial Ball at the Hapsburg Place in Vienna; was one of the last to travel through with a passport stamp for Check Point Charlie between the divided cold-war Berlin; traveled the Trans Canadian Railroad and toured Alaska by ship and train.
Combining her interest in travel and Kulm history, along with other family members, she toured Ukraine. During that trip, she visited villages where her parents and great and great-great grandparents lived as well as toured Moldova and the Carpathian Mountains.
While Elsie’s life was defined by family, her Lutheran faith and pride in her Kulm heritage, the interesting time in history which her life spanned was driven by the values and principles one who typified the “Greatest Generation”. She was a child born into the era of the Great Depression; grew up through the Second World War; as a modern woman, designed her version of a mid-century American life in the emergent Silicon Valley and with a career defining the contemporary “Two Income Family” and was an active member for many years of ABWA (American Business Women’s Association). She enjoyed her opportunity to travel to experience other cultures and understand her own history better as well as contributing her time and talents to family, church and community.
Throughout her 96 years of a well-lived life, Elsie was a forward-looking person, steadfast in her beliefs and stoic in demeanor. She was quick to laugh, kind, and empathetic to others. However, within that abundantly full life, her greatest abiding pride was her family who will miss her greatly but always will know and love her through her life’s heritage which she has gifted to them.
Elsie is survived by her daughter, Paula Kay Wright (Alex); her son, Terry Douglas West (Richard); and son, Gregory Bryan West (Sharon). Also surviving her are granddaughters, Michele Wright Treffers (Ryan), Sarah Wright Savy (Raoul), Amanda West Adams (Charles) and Adrianne West Junius (Christopher) as well as 8 great grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.
Due to COVID restrictions, there will be a private burial service in Los Gatos, California on April 8, 2021. A memorial service will be held at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to an organization to a cause where Elsie had volunteered, the South Valley FISH Food Pantry www.svfish.org The address is:
FISH of South Valley San Jose
2100 Camden Ave.
San Jose, CA 95124
Please mark your checks on the memo line “in memory of Elsie West” so that the family can acknowledge your kind remembrance.