OREGON CITY — James Alton Elting, 84, loving husband and father of seven children, died Jan. 10. There was a funeral Mass for immediate family members at St. John the Apostle Church.

Mr. Elting was born Nov. 3, 1936, in Clinton, Missouri, to Earl and Louise Alton Elting. He attended Gonzaga University and earned his degree in industrial engineering from UC Berkeley. He served his country through an Army ROTC scholarship, completing his service at Fort Lewis in Tacoma, Washington.

Mr. Elting met Cathy Costello at Gonzaga, beginning their love story at the clock at College Hall. In a love letter he wrote her in 1955, he quoted a Reader’s Digest article that read, “Three characteristics of a good man’s life are tolerance, humility, and modesty.” In that letter Mr. Elting asked her to remind him to hold those traits dear, as pillars of his life. Those who knew Mr. Elting are nodding their heads: He was a tolerant, humble, and modest man. The couple married in Tacoma in 1956 and moved to Berkeley so Mr. Elting could finish his degree.

As he established his path as a successful and respected excavating contractor, the young couple welcomed seven children into their lives.

Mr. Elting worked for Lige Dickson Company in Tacoma for a short time before moving his family to Oregon City. Mr. Elting worked with his wife’s uncle, Clarence Hatfield, for a short time, and then at Portland-based Crown Zellerbach. While at “Crown Z,” Mr. Elting’s plans for his own business started to grow. He took out a small loan and bought his first tractor, a Caterpillar 977 loader, promising Mrs. Elting that the machine would “pay for itself.”

It did all that and more. Established in 1970, Elting Incorporated grew into one of the premier excavation companies in the Pacific Northwest. Mr. Elting’s employees’ loyalty to him was exceeded only by his to them. They established a proud portfolio of regional projects, perhaps none more so than those they completed in the aftermath of the Mount St. Helens eruption.

Mr. Elting’s Catholic faith was strong. In his youth, he attended 15 different schools in 12 years. Driving the nuns from his many parishes on errands served both his devotion to his faith and his love of being in the driver’s seat. His care for others was demonstrated daily and will ring eternally in the hearts of his family and friends.

He was an active member of St. John the Apostle Church for 57 years. He joined the Knights of Columbus and enjoyed serving pancakes at their monthly breakfasts. A favorite opportunity to serve was at the parish community dinner, held every Thanksgiving. Mr. and Mrs. Elting were proud to deliver meals through the Meals on Wheels program at the Oregon City Senior Center. Whether it was serving others, washing dishes, or delivering meals, Mr. Elting did it all with a smile on his face.

He also enjoyed woodworking and long road trips. A natural storyteller, Mr. Elting enjoyed Sunday drives past various job sites, entertaining Mrs. Elting and the kids with stories about clearing sites, placing gabions, filling holes, grading roadways, and other mechanics of his profession. His sense of humor and wit had no match and will be sorely missed.

Upon retirement, Mr. Elting came to enjoy the game of golf, especially being outdoors in the company of friends. A constant in his life was enriching the lives of children. He volunteered at the Children’s Course in Gladstone, attended the many activities of his grandchildren, and delighted in their educational and professional endeavors.

Mr. Elting is survived by his loving wife, Cathy, and their seven children: Mary Elting, Ann Elting Schoblaske, Eileen Elting Peacher, Sue Elting Humes, Tom Elting, Janet Elting Banks, and Julie Elting Wessel. His love for his children was perhaps only eclipsed by the love and generosity he bestowed on his 14 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Mr. Elting is also survived by his devoted sister, Suzanne Orton.

Interment was at St. John the Apostle Cemetery. A celebration of Mr. Elting’s life, to include family members, employees, and friends, will be held at a later date. Memorial donations in his memory may be made to St. John the Apostle School.