Elmar Sepp

  • Born: December 27, 1924
  • Died: July 31, 2020
  • Location: Bronx, New York

Pelham Funeral Home

64 Lincoln Ave
Pelham, NY 10803

Tel. (914) 738-1060

Tribute & Message From The Family

Elmar Sepp 1924-2020
A Most Interesting Man

Elmar was born on the island of Saaremaa in a free and independent Estonia. The fifth of six children of Hindrik, a merchant marine, and Mari, a farmer and homemaker.

After his father was imprisoned and killed by Soviet invaders at the outbreak of World War II, Nazi Germany occupied the island and many of his family members were interned in camps in Poland where they died or became ill. The surviving members later returned to their homeland. Elmar experienced, first hand, how vulnerable his homeland was to foreign invaders. Longing for a better future, he and two other men quietly escaped late one night right under the noses of the SS guarding the shores of Saaremaa. The men paddled themselves to Sweden in a tiny rowboat during a nearly two-day journey across the Baltic Sea. There in Sweden, Elmar joined his older brother, Arnold, who had previously fled on his fishing boat, and his maternal aunt, Eva Mann Anto, and her children.

Elmar learned the construction trade - and mastered Swedish - while living for the next four years in Sweden. Eventually, he and other Estonian refugees became concerned that the increasing reach of the Soviet Union, which had by then illegally annexed Estonia, would negatively impact their lives in Sweden. Twenty-plus native Estonians pooled their money to buy a 36-ft fishing vessel, hired a captain and set sail for Canada in 1949. Unfortunately, crossing the Atlantic, the vessel encountered hurricane winds, and with a broken compass, the boat was sent adrift and began to sink off the coast of North Carolina. The U.S. Coast Guard pulled the passengers to safety and brought them to Ellis Island where they decided to petition for political asylum in the United States.

In 1950, Elmar met Joan Duffy, a shy telephone operator from New York City, on the stoop of their Manhattan apartment building. Soon his neighbor became his blushing bride. The pair would go on to have six children over a period of 18 years: Eileen, Michael, Joan, Mary, Alan and EJ.

After a lifetime in the construction industry, he formed his own general contracting company, E.J. Sepp & Son, with his son Alan working side by side building and renovating homes, commercial spaces and houses of worship--all around the Tri-State area. Retiring at the tender age of 80, Elmar divided his time between his homes in the Country Club section of the Bronx and Palm Bay, Florida.

Elmar passed away quietly at the age of 95 at Calvary Hospital on July 31, 2020. He joins his loving wife, Joan Sepp, his son Fr. Michael Sepp, his brothers Voldemar (who died in childhood), Arnold and Voldemar Sepp and his sister Alma Sepp among many other friends and relatives in the afterlife. He is survived by his five remaining children, his eight grandchildren; Erin, Scott, Matthew, Jessica, Kimberly, Taylor, Ava and Michael; and his great grandson, Tristan.

A Celebration of Life will be held at Pelham Funeral Home on Friday August 7, 2020 from 2PM-6PM. A mass of Christian Burial will be held at The Church of the Assumption Tuckahoe, NY, Saturday August 8, 2020, 9:30 AM, Burial will follow at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Valhalla, NY. For further info or to leave a message of condolence for the Sepp family please visit our website at www.pelhamfuneral.com.


Condolence & Memory Journal

My condolences to you all on Zepp's passing. I worked with him many years ago when living in Pelham Bay. I admired and respected Zepp and loved his family stories. Have only recently heard that he had passed. Rest In Peace

Posted by Donal McGivney - Hawthorne, NY - Friend   March 21, 2021

My condolences Just recently got the news my Godfather passed away. May he RIP. He was a part of an era of Estonia immigrants that went thru so much. I remember him as a child visiting my parents and helping them with their home. My he be joking them and others in the heavens. Andy Koplimae

Posted by Andres Koplimae - Spain - Significant Other   August 14, 2020

So sorry. Recently heard the news of my Godfather passing away. I remember Elmar visits as a child and helping my parents with their home. RIP and be with the rest of the Estonians in the heavens. Such a amazing era growing up with these amazing people and their hard stories. My condolences. Andy Koplimae

Posted by Andy Koplimae - Spain - Significant Other   August 14, 2020

Just want to share that Pelham Funeral Home did a great job with everything they could at this very strange and difficult time. I am very grateful to Tom and the rest for their quiet compassion and people management skills. Despite the COVID-19 situation, this was easily the nicest wake and funeral I have ever experienced and my dad would have definitely approved. Thanks to all.

Posted by EJ Sepp - Pelham, NY - Son   August 10, 2020

Family Album