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Wednesday December 19, 2012

Louise Lemire-Elmore

One-time nun, music teacher, alto, philanthropist, co-founder of the Victoria Philharmonic Choir. Born Oct. 5, 1945, in Edmonton, died May 29, 2012, in Sooke, B.C., by drowning, aged 66

Anyone who met Louise Lemire-Elmore soon realized she was a woman of extraordinary energy and talents who seemingly could do anything. In fact, she had done pretty much everything in her 60-plus years.

It was the nun part of Louise's life, however, that most surprised new acquaintances - especially if one first got to know her and her big, head-thrown-back laugh over wine after choir practice. That tall, long-legged frame, that effervescent, larger-than-life presence - her pixie hair spiked with gel and tinted a purplish shade of red - didn't mesh with the image.

She grew up in northern Saskatchewan with a younger sister. Their tall father, nicknamed "High Pockets," worked on the DEW line until he moved the family to Victoria for his work at the shipyards.

Louise was an accomplished pianist who considered making piano her calling. But faith called her instead, and she joined Victoria's Sisters of St. Ann order soon after high school. Five years later, she began to have doubts about making that world her life. "I fall in love too easily," she told the Reverend Mother when she decided not to continue her vows in the late 1960s. Bruce Elmore, a Jesuit studying for the priesthood, was the man with whom she ultimately fell in love. The couple had met when he was studying theology in Spokane, Wash. They reconnected a few years later by chance in Toronto. They had dinner. He found her "a nice girl." Louise felt sparks.

"She pursued me," laughs Bruce, who was unaware he was being pursued. In 1972, six months before he was to be ordained, he phoned his mother to say he was calling off his ordination because he was in love with Louise. "Thank God!" she said.

They married that year and set about creating a new life, eventually moving to Sooke, B.C., and bringing Domini, Chloe, Justin and Gillian into the world. Louise was a loving but firm mother who ran a tight household. All four children were required to take piano lessons until age 16.

They built a waterfront home and Louise became a master gardener. They built and operated a high-end burger joint for almost two years. Louise taught music and was the choirmaster and organist at her parish church.

Buying and fixing up old houses soon became a passion. Louise loved to find a dilapidated structure with "good bones" and transform it, either to sell or rent. "Louise was always about creating beauty, whether it was in houses, or music, or her gardens, or at the table," says Bruce.

Louise was involved in numerous community activities, supporting the Victoria Symphony, Pacific Opera Victoria and the Victoria Philharmonic Choir, which she co-founded.

One night last May, she was arriving home from choir practice when her car left the waterfront driveway and plunged into the ocean. No medical reasons could be found. It is believed she may have swerved to avoid a bear in the driveway.

Anne Mullens is Louise's friend.

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