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Elton, Maurice

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January 9, 1932 - October 2, 2018

Elton, Maurice


Maurice was born in London, England in 1932 and died on October 2, 2018 at his home in Dallas, Texas under the loving care of his family and the VNA Hospice Staff. He was predeceased by his parents, Henry Francis & Yvonne Elton; brother Francis Elton, & wife Hanneh; Evelyn & John Drewry, his American sponsors and their son-in-law Lee Atwell.

In his active life Maurice was passionate about teaching his students new ways to learn French. His interests included music, art, photography, camping, travel, books, cooking, collecting French Stamps, and learning new skills. Above all, Maurice was devoted to his family and included them in all endeavors.

His deep faith and trust in God helped him survive the London Blitz during WW II as well as serving as a choirboy from age 6 to 12. His education was at the Rutlish Boy’s School in Merton Park. His fluency in French helped him find a position with Thomas Cooks Travel & Shipping Co. until he was called to active military service. He was sent by the British Army Intelligence Corps to serve 2 years in Austria where he became fluent in German. In 1953 he was welcomed to the USA by sponsors Evelyn & John Drewry and their daughter, Joan. Maurice attended the University of Cincinnati receiving B.A. and M.A. in German and a PhD in Romance Languages where he was an Instructor in German and French.

He joined SMU’s Foreign Languages faculty in 1964 teaching French Language & Literature and, with his wife, served as Resident Hall Directors of Morrison Hall. Within a year of his arrival he designed and implemented a state-of-the-art language lab. He taught Evening School French language classes and the SMU Lecture Series including conducting a Tour of South-Central France. He served in numerous administrative roles, including Chairman of the French Area and director of the SMU-in-Paris and SMU-in­ Tours programs. Maurice was one of the first in the profession to support the now universally accepted standards of proficiency-based pedagogy; spent 3 sessions at Princeton on revising the National College French Entrance Exam; and 2 years creating the Texas EXCET Exam for Teachers of French. In 1970 Maurice helped re-start the Dallas L’Alliance Franiçaise and was President for several years. He served 7 years on the executive committee of the American Association of Teachers of French which honored him in 1990 with the AATF Outstanding Service Award and in 2014 gave him Life Time Membership. In 1980 Maurice founded and promoted the new field of French for Business and International Trade. For 10 years he was Publisher/Editor of FBAIT a Newsletter sent to French Teachers in the US. For his achievements in promoting French Language and culture, the French Government awarded him the prestigious l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques, receiving the ranks of Chevalier (1983) and Officier (1992). Since the founding he has been an active member of the French American Chamber of Commerce in DFW.

In 1980 Maurice started FRANCE UNLIMITED offering services in translation, interpreting and consulting to students and many clients. In 1989/90 he was a visiting Professor at UT Austin. Along with teaching Contemporary French he helped with a new joint MBA Business Program between UT Austin and the Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Lyon. After retiring from SMU, he again became active in The Dallas Goethe Center to strengthen his German, and the World Affairs Council to remain current with world events.

Despite war-time conditions in London, Maurice attended church regularly and sang each Sunday during Morning and Evening Prayer Services. He continued to sing in various choirs in Britain, France and then in the US. Upon arriving in this country, he joined the choir at the church where his new American “family” worshiped and met his future wife and life partner, the soprano soloist, Sylvia Knecht. When they moved to Dallas they continued to sing in church choirs. In 1980 they became active members of First Presbyterian Church, Dallas, singing in the choir for more than 20 years and were members of the Dan Foster Open Ring Class, the Stewpot Alliance, and The Bridge. He served as a Presbyterian Elder. He was passionate about music and art and was an active member of Dallas Museum of Art, Nasher Sculpture Center, Meadows Museum, The Dallas Arboretum and the Dallas Opera and the Opera Guild as Co-Presidents with Sylvia, Adopt-an-Artist, the Boutique and Honorees of the Vocal Competition. He was also a Distinguished Member of Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity.

In 2015 a new and different emphasis in their lives was undertaken when Maurice was diagnosed with Vascular Dementia. Activities and support were achieved via programs at The Brain Health Institute “Discovery”, SMU Meadows Museum Connections, Casa de Vida at NorthPark Presbyterian, Trailblazers and Memory Cafe, Dallas Arboretum Memory Garden and recently the Dallas Zoo Wild Gatherings. All volunteers are compassionate, creative thinkers and trained in helping those with this complicated and debilitating disease to find joy through art, music, movement and fellowship. After recent surgery he received excellent care from the Therapy Team at CC Young, Home Health Companion, and his family.

Maurice is survived by his loving wife of 60 years, Sylvia J. (Knecht) Elton, son, David Elton, daughter-in-law Lori Erickson Elton, granddaughter Katherine Elton; daughter Renee Elton (Smith) Ellis, son-in-law Dwayne Ellis, and grandchildren, Megan  and Austin Smith; brother in England, Rene Elton; Maurice’s American Sister, Joan Drewry Atwell and husband Fred Liedtke, and many dear nephews, nieces, cousins in England, France and  USA.

A Memorial Service will be held Saturday, October 27th at 2:00 pm at
First Presbyterian Church, Dallas.
There is an attached garage.

In lieu of flowers contributions in Maurice’s name may be made to your favorite charity.


A Signature Service under the direction of:
Aria Cremation Service & Funeral Home
10116 E. Northwest Highway
Dallas, Texas 75238

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Sara Hammond Hendrix

October 23, 2018 2:52PM

Dr. Elton was the first person on the SMU academic team who I met in 1971 when I was a freshman at SMU. He always encouraged me and was part of me attaining my BS in French. I took an MLA course in Contemporary France in the '80's and it was like returning home again. He was such a wonderful soul, so in love with his heritage and culture and it was contagious! God Bless him and blessings to the rest of the family.

Sally Eddins Schneider

October 20, 2018 4:17PM

Dr. Elton was my professor., teaching supervisor, and fellow Francophile. He was a great influence in my life and in my teaching career. I will never forget him. Sincere condolences to his family.