The Elmer Hobson DeLoura Memorial Scholarship is awarded each year to Vineyard students pursuing an undergraduate degree at an accredited two- or four-year college, university or vocational-technical school. But who exactly was this generous benefactor?
Elmer DeLoura was born in 1898. His father, Manuel Chaves DeLoura, was born in the Azores in 1869 and came to the Vineyard at the age of 16 aboard the whaling bark Mary Frazier, which sailed from Edgartown in those days.
Manuel met and fell in love with an Irish servant girl, Mary Ann Keane; they married and went on to have three children: Lena, Elmer, and Bertha. Another, Charles, died in infancy.
Elmer and his two sisters attended Edgartown High School, graduating with honors and very possibly attaining valedictorian status. Given that the graduating classes in those days were only five or six students, the odds were in their favor.
Elmer was in the class of 1915. As a junior, he was business manager of “The Only Edgartown,” a monthly, four-page student newspaper. Elmer apparently had a reputation as a young man on the rise, as evidenced by a poem that appeared in the first issue titled, “The Boys of E. H. S. in 1914.” It included the following stanza:
There’s Alfred the athletic director
And Elmer, the doctor to be,
We all look up to this fellow
For he might be noted, you see
The poem turned out to be prophetic — well, almost. Elmer didn’t go on to become a doctor, but he did attend the prestigious Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and graduated in 1917 at the top of his class. And he did go on to be noted.
After graduation, Elmer went to work for Lever Brothers (the multinational soap manufacturer) and was, by the early 1930s, living in Detroit serving as their regional sales manager for the Midwest.
By 1940, Elmer was living in Cambridge, and was still there at least as late as 1957. Elmer and his wife Lillion retired to Dallas in the mid-1960s but continued to lead a very active life which at one point included a two-year driving tour of Europe.
In 1974 Lillion died. A few years later, Elmer revisited Edgartown and, acting on a desire to leave a legacy for Island schoolchildren, he established the Elmer, Hobson DeLoura Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship was originally endowed at $1 million and as of January 2015, the trust that funds the scholarship was worth $4.6 million.
In 2015, 72 worthy MVRHS graduates received the DeLaura scholarship. In all, $188,500 was disbursed — it’s one of the largest scholarships offered each year to Vineyard students. And all in all, a very impressive legacy for a local man whose father arrived on a whaling ship.
Applications for the 2016 DeLaura scholarship are available from Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, or they may be downloaded from mvrhs.org/guidance-counseling/scholarships. The applications must be postmarked by March 15, 2016.