Elsie Marie Allen: Rest in power

by Carson Stanton

Elsie Marie Allen took her final breath on May 19. She was born on July 17, 1946, in Richmond, Indiana. She is survived by her spouse of 57 years, David Allen, of Alachua, Florida; her daughter Wallace Mohlenbrok of Winston Salem, North Carolina; her son Damon Allen (Melanie Barr); her daughter Carson Stanton (Ken); and her son Flynn Allen, all of Gainesville; her grandchildren Gabriel Mohlenbrok of Greensboro, North Carolina; Margaret and Dorothy Mohlenbrok of Winston Salem; and Arrow and Nebraska Stanton of Gainesville.

She was the oldest of five children born to Bill and Betty Lou Showalter Harness. Her father was a factory worker who belonged to a union, and her mother was a homemaker. 

Elsie graduated from Centerville Senior High School in Centerville, Indiana, in 1964. After high school, she met her husband, David. They had two children in Indiana, where David worked for the carpenters union, and as a couple, they worked together building houses.

Elsie and David moved to Florida in 1976, and David transferred his membership to the Carpenters Local in Gainesville. They built their own home on five acres in Alachua County and raised two more children while Elsie pursued an AA in English at Santa Fe College.

Elsie became involved with the Central Labor Council as a political volunteer. She also worked with the Gainesville carpenters in political action and joined the local, who made her a delegate to the Central Labor Council, where she eventually became President of the North Central Florida Labor Council in Gainesville. 

She worked tirelessly for the labor council and helped win many political victories as a labor activist. Her efforts were recognized by the leadership of the carpenters, and when the United Brotherhood reorganized and merged some locals in the North Florida area, Elsie was appointed Business Agent of the newly formed Local 75.

She became an effective organizer for the carpenters local. She signed on new members, converted non-union carpenters, and restarted the apprenticeship. She revived the carpenter’s newsletter, staying up late into the evening editing articles, publishing them, and getting them mailed out. She brought back the retirees’ meetings and got them involved in important political discussions on issues that affected them. She was known to show up on non-union job sites and go head to head with contractors to win agreements for her carpenters, who became like family to her.

Her success as a business agent led the state organization to promote Elsie to the job of political director for the Florida Carpenters Council. She continued in that position until she retired in 2006. The Carpenters remained her biggest passion until the end of her life. She was devoted to protecting working people’s rights and trying to prevent the destruction of the last 100 years of labor progress in Florida. In June, 2022, she was inducted into the Labor Hall of Fame and received the A. Philip Randolph Award for lifetime solidarity.

In her free time, she enjoyed spending time hiking, camping, and studying the botany of the western United States. She was particularly interested in poetry and wrote and read works of her own. One of her favorite quotes was from Mother Jones: “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.” 

Donations in Elsie’s name may be made to the AFL-CIO at tinyurl.com/Iguana1626.

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