Former GC Vice President Paul Eldridge Dies
BY DON ROTH
aul Herbert Eldridge, 94, a long-time missionary and church administrator, and World War II prisoner of war, died in Loma Linda, California, on February 12 after a long illness.
Eldridge served the Adventist Church for 40 years as a pastor, teacher, and administrator, including president of the former Far Eastern Division.
Air raids, gunfire, and starvation were just a few life-threatening experiences Eldridge faced as a prisoner of war in the Republic of the Philippines. His nightmare began December 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked. Japanese forces began dropping bombs on the Philippines, and this continued for weeks.
The Eldridge family was sent to Baguio, a mountain resort area north of Manila, where they joined other Adventist missionaries in waiting out events of the international conflict. When relations between the United States and Japan became strained, church leaders recommended that the missionary family in Japan be evacuated to the Philippines where they expected to be safe until arrangements could be made to send them to the U.S.
In the meantime, the Japanese raided Pearl Harbor and made plans to attack Manila, Singapore, Hong Kong, and other East Asia cities. At one point Eldridge was situated in Manila while the family was in a safer place in Baguio. Eventually the family was reunited and sent to Santo Tomas, a former university, where Eldridge and five hundred other missionaries from many nations and denominations were incarcerated.
When they first went to the camp, they were told they would be there for a few days. But those few days turned into three years, much of the time under house arrest. The prisoners tried to make life as normal as possible, though conditions were harsh.
Salvation came on February 23, 1945, when American forces began attacking the Japanese camps. Paratroopers landed at the camp and after an hour of skirmishing the soldiers were able to take them past Japanese snipers to trucks that took them to safety. It was several weeks before military authorities were able to find shipping that would take the family and hundreds of other missionaries and non-religious workers to the U.S.
After the war, church leaders asked Eldridge to return to Japan to help re-start work. Eldridge and his wife, Retha, spent a total of 20 years as missionaries in Japan. One of his assigned tasks was to prepare radio programs for his church. His language skills were so good that most Japanese thought that it was a Japanese who was doing the speaking.
In 1966 Eldridge was elected president of the former Far Eastern Division, based in Singapore. The territory was later split into the Northern and Southern Asia Pacific divisions.
Upon retirement in 1975, Eldridge maintained a busy schedule as a pastor and chaplain. His wife of 57 years died in 1990. Subsequently, Eldridge married Evelyn Davies. The couple subsequently moved to the Loma Linda area.
A memorial service for Eldridge will be held March 21 at the Cortner Funeral Home in Redlands.
Survivors include his wife Evelyn; a son, Larry; stepsons Douglas, David, and Roger; stepdaughter, Dorothy; 19 grand children, 17 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, and 2 great-great grandchildren.