Icon of Old Town Kern passes at 94: Jim Elder owned Sequoia Paint for nearly 60 years

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — One of Bakersfield’s best-known, best-loved businessmen has died. Jim Elder, owner of Sequoia Paint in Old Town Kern, passed away last Friday at age 94.

John F. Kennedy was president when Elder, just 35, opened Sequoia Paint a couple doors down from Luigi’s at the corner of Baker and East 19th streets.

And for nearly 60 years he plied his trade selling paint that his own company formulated. In 1990 he expanded, buying a retail showroom catty-corner across Baker in an old car dealership, the former home of Wally Tucker Datsun.

Elder, an Arkansas native, didn’t retire until January of this year when he sold his business. He died Nov. 5 at age 94.

Bruce Barta worked for Jim Elder for nearly 40 years.

“Jim Elder was a very fun guy, a hard-working guy, and a very forgiving guy,” he said. “I made a few mistakes. Yeah, I made one mistake that was about 200 gallons and it was on the floor. And he said, ‘Grab a shovel, son.’ And we grabbed the shovels and cleaned it up and then he says, ‘Hey, let’s go get a bite to eat.’”

Elder is survived by his wife Eloise, two daughters, three granddaughters, five great-granddaughters and two great grandsons.

Christina Coyle and Michelle Adams, two of his granddaughters, admired his style.

“Suspenders, patches in his pants,” Adams said.

“My grandfather came from nothing, worked his way to the top, always said “You don’t get rich by drinking Starbucks, you get rich by going to work early, and staying late,” Coyle said.

At Elder’s request, there will be no services. Barta, his old employee, suggests mourners adopt Elder’s approach. He says he will.

“Rest in peace, Jim Elder,” Barta said. “I think I’ll go get a bite to eat.”

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