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Willard Elsing

Willard L. Elsing, consummate rockhound and founder of the Elsing Museum in Tulsa, was born in Kansas on July 22, 1911, and died at the age of 93 on October 17, 2004. His father Walter had emigrated to America from Germany in 1890 and established a cleaning business in Pittsburg, Kansas in the 1920's. As a young boy Willard became fascinated with all sorts of local collectibles, including arrowheads, ethnic artifacts, rocks and (especially) minerals. In the 1930's he left home and opened a rock and mineral shop on Route 66 near the lead-mining center of Joplin, Missouri. Miners from throughout the Tri-State District brought him specimens which he bought for the shop, keeping many of the more interesting examples for his own growing collection. It was a great sadness to him when the Tri-State mines finally closed down.

Elsing favored crystal collecting above all, and was an aesthetic collector rather than a scientific one. He preferred to buy many of his specimens at minerals shows rather than obtain them by field-collecting. He recommended comparing prices carefully to avoid being overcharged, and advised, "When you find a dealer who will take a little time to help you, stick with him." He always made a habit of reinvesting profits from specimen sales in new specimens for his collection, and he recommended joining a local club to meet other collectors and potential buyers. Elsing always kept the original labels showing what he had paid for specimens, and he endeavored never to sell anything at less than its inflation-adjusted purchase price. In his 90's, he could still quote the purchase price of specimens he had bought in the 1930's.

In the early 1970's Elsing made the acquaintance of Evelyn Roberts at a seminar being held at Oral Roberts University, and eventually he agreed to transfer much of his huge collection to the Learning Resource Center of Oral Roberts University in the University Village retirement center. In 2001 the collection, still referred to as the Elsing Museum, was moved onto the campus of the university, where it can be seen today. Proudly dubbed "God's natural art museum" (Oral Roberts University is a religious institution), the museum exhibits over 3,000 specimens including a 2,900-carat Australian opal, slabs of scenic agate, Oriental jade work, Native American rarities, fossils, mineral art, and a great many attractive and interesting crystallized mineral specimens. In response to increasing visits by school groups, some new educational exhibits are planned for the future, including an indoor man-made cave. More information about the Elsing Museum at Oral Roberts University is available on the museum's website:

WILSON, W.E. (2005) Died, Willard L. Ellsing, 93. Mineralogical Record, 36, 140-141.
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