Paul Oscar Elmquist, 84, a retired Asian specialist with the Central Intelligence Agency, died July 16 of respiratory arrest at Sleepy Hollow Manor in Falls Church. He was an Arlington resident.
Mr. Elmquist was born in Stanton, Iowa, and grew up in Iowa and California. A voracious reader from a young age with particular interests in natural history and theology, he spent his life exploring how the two areas were connected. He received a bachelor's degree in geology from Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., in 1942.
He was working for the U.S. Geological Survey, prospecting for uranium in the Southwest, when he enlisted in the Marine Corps and trained in Japanese language school as a combat interpreter. He was en route to Japan for his first deployment when World War II ended. He landed in Nagasaki and became part of the recovery efforts after the atomic bomb was dropped on the city.
In addition to helping with rebuilding efforts, often using discarded materials as his main resource, he assisted priests conducting worship services by playing whatever keyboard was available. Relations he developed with Japanese citizens continued for many years.
After his discharge from the Marines, he received a master's degree in 1955 and a doctorate in 1962, both in Asian studies, from Harvard University.
He moved to Washington in 1955 to work for the CIA as a Far East intelligence officer, with expertise as a geographer and mapmaker.
He retired from the CIA in 1972 and then moved with his family to Santurce, Puerto Rico, where he taught history for three years at the College of the Sacred Heart. When he returned to Arlington, he did contract typing, working primarily on medical trial transcriptions.
Mr. Elmquist had a sophisticated sense of theology and the function of the church in the life of the individual and the community, a daughter said. He was active in his denomination at the local and national levels, and his particular interests were social concerns and music ministries.
During his 50 years in the Washington area, he was a member of Augustana Lutheran Church in the District, Resurrection Lutheran Church in Arlington and Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Falls Church.
Survivors include his wife of 53 years, Ann Elmquist of Arlington; three children, Martha Sherman of Alexandria, Rachel Elmquist of Big Arm, Mont., and John Elmquist of Chicago; and four grandsons.