Eldred L. Belanger, “El” to his family and friends, passed peacefully on July 8, 2022, in Austin, Texas, with his wife Jane at his side, and tended to during his hospice care by his 5 children, his stepson, and many loving friends and family. A celebration of El’s life will be held at 1 pm, Friday, July 29th, 2022, at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Austin, where he worshiped and served on staff for many years.
El was born in Brillion, Wisconsin on June 3, 1935, to Lawrence and Alma (Buboltz) Belanger, the eldest of four active Belanger boys. Six years older than his brother Bruce, who was followed by Warren a year later, then Kenneth three years after that, El was thrust into an early role as patriarch, as their father died just after El graduated from Brillion High School. The Belanger boys were athletic and active, with El leading the way as a left-handed sharpshooter on the basketball court. With their dad’s untimely death, El and his brothers quickly honed a deep work ethic that had to balance their athletic pursuits.
Married at age 20 to his high school sweetheart, Shirley Zeigler, El continued his “big brother” role for his teen age brothers, but was soon consumed by parenting his own 5 “stair step” children, who grew the household quickly over the span of 6 years. El had a gift for sales and hospitality, starting in high school as a soda jerk at the local malt shop, inspired no doubt by his mother Alma’s talents as a cook and baker. But 5 kids required El get serious, so, after door to door sales stints for Fuller Brush Company and AMF (selling bowling pins throughout Wisconsin), El leased an A&W Drive In restaurant in Brown Deer, a suburb of Milwaukee. This started a family enterprise that, over the next three decades, involved some of El’s brothers, his mother, and, of course, his whole brood at home. In 1962, seeing Wisconsin’s cold winters as limiting to root beer sales, he found and purchased an A&W franchise 1,200 miles away in Weatherford, Oklahoma.
The ‘60s, 70s and ‘80s found El and his family as successful “transplanted Yankees” in Western Oklahoma, where El was a community leader and grew his restaurant business to multiple locations, some involving the partnership of other Belanger family members. Even in dusty Weatherford, he celebrated his Wisconsin roots, resulting in a large “pack” of lifelong Packer Cheeseheads spreading throughout the Midwest! The creator of “Brandy’s” statue, El was the quintessential SWOSU Bulldog “athletic supporter”, and his former employees from the A&Ws and The Spot are legion.
In 1988, El Belanger, his five children having finished college and starting their own careers and families, decided to make a major change himself – to move to Texas and go to college. His foray into college, at age 55, at Concordia Lutheran in Austin, led him to graduate with a degree in Business Administration, work for a time on staff at Concordia, and eventually to his goal of a career as business and facilities manager at Redeemer. Along the way, he met and married Jane and helped her raise her two children, becoming fixtures at Redeemer and local school activities, and enjoying 29 years of marriage that involved a shared love for hospitality and service to others, much travel, including two trips to visit with El’s beloved exchange student, Arthur Storimans, of The Netherlands, and the joy of family from Texas, Oklahoma, Michigan, and of course, Wisconsin.
Eldred Belanger is survived by his wife, Jane, of Sun City, Texas, and his brothers Bruce (with wife, Marilyn), of Buckeye, Arizona, and Ken (with wife, Karen), of Frederic, Wisconsin. He was preceded in death by his parents and his brother Warren (husband of Sandy), of Brillion, and his stepdaughter, Sara (Sorkness) Footlander. El’s legacy continues through his stepson, John (with wife, Jo-Jo) Sorkness, of Austin, and his five children and their burgeoning families: Bert and Paula Belanger, of Oklahoma City, Barbara Belanger-McKown and her husband, Randal McKown, of Durango, Colorado, Mark and Debi Belanger, of Centerville, Ohio, Michelle (Chelly) Belanger Quinn and her husband, Joe Quinn, of Sunnyvale, Texas, and Bruce Belanger, of Mesquite, Texas. El is and will always be “Pops” to fourteen grandchildren and seventeen (and counting) great grandchildren, whom he strived to stay engaged with even as his health wavered. El touched many lives through his humble servant leadership and example, even in his last days in hospice care. The family is very grateful for all who cared for El when he could no longer care for himself. In lieu of flowers, the family invites a donation to your local chapter of the National Parkinson’s Foundation. At El’s celebration, Green Bay Packer attire is encouraged, as requested by El himself