After living his life to the fullest, Robert Pauly Elsperman, PE, 83, past Chairman and CEO of Tarlton Corporation, passed away April 7, 2020, surrounded by his loving family – wife D’Arcy; children Tracy Hart, Dirk Elsperman and Wendy Guhr (and husband Ted); grandchildren Brendan and Dylan Hart, Nina and Stefanie Elsperman, and Theo and Jake Guhr. Born October 21, 1936.
Inspired by his father Art, Bob always wanted to be a builder. He attended Cleveland High School because it was better in math and science at the time. While at Cleveland, he was a multi-sport athlete, playing football, basketball and baseball. After high school, he enrolled in civil engineering at Purdue University. On the five-year plan, Bob made the most of his Boilermaker education. He was initiated into the Delta Delta chapter of Sigma Chi fraternity. He remained active in Sigma Chi his entire life and was recognized for his professional accomplishments as a “Significant Sig.”
He also participated in the Naval ROTC program. During his first senior year, Bob met the love of his life, D’Arcy Gifford. While he was taking his victory lap at Purdue and finishing his degree, they began a long-distance courtship. They were married June 4, 1960.
Upon graduation from Purdue, Bob began working full time at Tarlton while also serving in the U.S. Air Force Reserve (serving a total eight years and attaining the rank of captain). Always interested in construction, Elsperman started with Tarlton at the age of 14 working as a “cub” apprentice carpenter. Between his summer jobs and full-time employment, Bob worked nearly 70 years at Tarlton, the company his father co-founded. As Bob continued building his career, he took on new challenges and was “all in” with each pursuit and affiliation. He loved the Fraternity of Construction.
He came from an era where contractors had to be tough on the outside, but Bob always cared deeply for the people he worked with, whom he considered his extended family. He appreciated how the toughest jobs brought people together in the end and resulted in a level of mutual respect. He welcomed all sorts of people into the fraternity and mixed well with executives, business managers, competitors and the front-line professionals.
Bob took pride in the abundance of work Tarlton completed over the years for St. Louis hospitals, universities, utility companies and Anheuser-Busch, including numerous Stockhouse projects, The Tour Center, A-B Corporate Headquarters, the Lauter Tub Building and A-B Warehouse. More recently, he was deeply appreciative of Tarlton’s work for iconic cultural institutions such as The Muny, Saint Louis Zoo, Missouri Botanical Garden, Saint Louis Art Museum, Pulitzer Arts Foundation, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis and Washington University, to name a few. During his career Bob joined and led associations too numerous to recount. He served as an officer of nearly every national, regional and local organization in the construction industry, most notably as Treasurer in 1999 of the Associated General Contractors of America, the country’s largest construction trade association, and as President of the AGC of St. Louis (now AGC of Missouri) in 1981 (a role his father, daughter Tracy and son Dirk also fulfilled).
Always respected for his work, Bob received the AGC of St. Louis Award; was honored in 2008 with the Al Fleischer Award for Management from The St. Louis Construction Collaborative, formerly known as PRIDE of St. Louis; and was recognized as Construction Man of the Year in 1985 by St. Louis Construction News and Review and PRIDE. An engineer’s engineer, Bob also served as president of the Engineers’ Club of St. Louis in 1974-75. Active in the organization his entire career, Bob was named Young Engineer of the Year and Engineer of the Year.
He bowled in the Engineers’ Club League until he was 81 (winning his only league championship in 1997 but leading his team in high average at age 80). Bob lived a blessed life and felt that giving back to his community came with those blessings. He served as past chairman of the board of St. Andrew’s Resources for Seniors System (STARSS) and previously served on the advisory council for the School of Civil Engineering at Purdue, the board of the Bach Society of St. Louis, the advisory board for The Salvation Army and the advisory council for the Hope Center, also serving on advisory boards for several banks. He enjoyed affiliations with the United Way, The Salvation Army, Children’s Miracle Network, Boy Scouts of America, Circle Club and Howard Park Center. Bob was an active member of his church, where he led the vestry and was a lay reader and usher.
He embraced the Golden Rule and held firm in his belief that each person can have a positive impact through serving others. He and D’Arcy imparted this vision to their three children and six grandchildren. A celebration of Bob’s life will be held at a later date when we can all be together. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, Ellisville, MO; St. Andrew’s Resources for Seniors System Charitable Foundation; or St. Louis Community Foundation COVID-19 Regional Response Fund.