home about media center archive history links subscribe

Elmer Lokkins
1919 - 2013
In Memoriam

by Denny Meyer
with Christina Dean

Few of us can claim to have had lives that spanned nearly a century and two millennia, from after the end of World War I to the day after National Coming Out Day in 2013.  How few of us have lived the century of changes in our freedom and lived to see the progress that we fought for all our lives.  Elmer Lokkins, together with his partner of nearly 70 years, did all of that and more.  As a soldier in World War II, he battled his way across the Japanese occupied islands of the South Pacific and liberated the Philippines, under heavy bombardment at the side of General Swift, during the invasion of Lingayen Gulf in 1945.

For his WWII  service, advancing with HQ I Corps through the South Pacific islands, Tech Sgt Elmer Lokkins was awarded a Distinguished Unit Badge, an Asiatic Pacific Theater Ribbon with Two Bronze Battle Stars, a Philippine Liberation Ribbon with One Bronze Battle Star, and a Good Conduct Ribbon.

Fortunately, those cherished medals and ribbons were not his only reward.  After returning home to America, on the balmy early evening of September 16th, 1945, he met the love of his life, Gus Archilla, at the southwest corner of Central Park in New York City.  They remained together for the next 67 years until Gus' passing in 2012.  They married in Canada in 2003, marched in Pride Parades and were the darlings of the Right to Marry movement well into their 80s.

Gus and Elmer 2007 in New York City

Elmer 1943

Like many in his 'Greatest Generation' era, Elmer only realized that he was gay after he began his war service.  He'd spent most of his youth growing up in a huge orphanage near Chicago.  After having served his country, he met his kindred spirit Gus -who lost his parents as a young teen and, as the eldest of nine siblings, supported and reared them on his own.  I've met a lot of gay and lesbian heroes and heroines, but these two men have been an inspiration.  To honor his service, their love, and their dedication to achieving our rights, Both Elmer and his husband Gus were awarded lifetime membership in American Veterans For Equal Rights, the national LGBT veterans' service organization. 

According to their beloved niece, Christina Dean, who cared for both Elmer and Gus in their final years, "Elmer Theodore Lokkins, 94, Marco Island, Florida, died Saturday, October 12, 2013. He served in the Army during World War II and was stationed in Australia, New Guinea, & the Philippines. He was awarded the Distinguished Unit Badge, Good Conduct Ribbon, Asiatic Pacific Theater Ribbon with Two Bronze Battle Stars, Philippine Liberation Ribbon with One Bronze Battle Star, and Army Overseas Service Ribbon. He was Honorably Discharged in June 1945 and then moved to New York City. That is when he met his life-long partner, Gustavo (Gus) A. Archilla.  Elmer attended City College in New York City and after graduation, got a job at City College and became Registrar of the Graduate Center of The City University of New York. He retired in the 70's and he and Gus lived their lives to the fullest. They traveled all over the world and were always visiting their siblings and nieces and nephews, of which they have many. 

Elmer and Gus married in Canada in 2003 and became involved in the Marriage Equality movement and Gay Pride.  They were both very happy and enjoyed helping to promote Gay Rights. In 2010 they moved to Marco Island, Florida to be close to their niece as they both had health problems. They spent the last few years enjoying the weather and beauty of the island.  Gus passed away in November of 2012 and Elmer spent the last several months being cared for by his niece and several caring home health aids.  Even though he was suffering with a rare decease that had no cure, Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), he was always smiling and laughing. He always thanked the ladies for all they did for him. When he could no longer speak, he would kiss their hand. The word "gentleman" encompasses all that he was in the end.

Elmer is survived by his brother Jerry Mullens and many beloved nieces, nephews, and great nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his husband Gustavo (Gus) Archilla, brother Charles Lokkins, sister Helen Thrun, brother-in-law Howard Thrun, and brother Arthur Lokkins. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Cure PSP, Alzheimer's Foundation of America, or Marriage Equality USA. As per Elmer and Gus's wishes, their ashes will be scattered together off the coast of Marco Island in the Gulf of Mexico."

The full story of Elmer's war service and his long life together with Gus may be seen at http://www.gaymilitarysignal.com/070731Lokkins.html; his husband Gus' obituary is at http://www.gaymilitarysignal.com/1301Archilla.html.

2013 GayMilitarySignal