Elizabeth Delmore was a Roseau girl who lived and traveled around the world as a Catholic sister, and a librarian who wrote poetry and climbed mountains.
For 70 years, Delmore was a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in St. Paul. She also was a teacher, a hospital chaplain, a caregiver and an advocate for the ordination of women as priests in the Catholic Church.
Delmore died Nov. 15 at Carondelet Village in St. Paul. She was 97.
Her parents, John Delmore and Mary Frick, met at St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul, where Mary was a nurse and John was a doctor doing his residency. Elizabeth was born in Roseau, where her father became the town surgeon.
She got a degree in library science from the College of St. Catherine in 1943, joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in 1948, and got a master’s degree in English and art history from the University of Minnesota in 1966.
Her 40-year career as a librarian involved work at several high schools, including Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield; St. John’s Academy in Jamestown, N.D.; and St. James Academy in Grand Forks, N.D.
For 10 years she was library director of the College of St. Catherine (now St. Catherine University) in St. Paul, and was on the faculty there for more than 20 years.
On a sabbatical in Vermont, where she oversaw storefront libraries and bookmobiles, she joined the Green Mountain Club and started hiking. She also climbed mountains on a teaching sabbatical in Korea and in Ireland, where her great grandparents were born. There, she climbed Croagh Patrick, a holy “penitential” mountain in western Ireland where, according to tradition, St. Patrick spent 40 days fasting and praying.
“She just loved exercise and was in very good condition,” said Mary Kaye Medinger, a friend and consociate with the Sisters of St. Joseph. She loved winter and winter sports and once snowshoed to church in a blizzard.
She also lived by her congregation’s mission of “love of God and love of neighbor without distinction,” said Medinger.
Later in life, Delmore became a chaplain in the cardiac unit at St. Joseph’s, the hospital where her parents met. She cared for the elderly with the Sisters Care program, and volunteered to help the homeless at the Peace House in Minneapolis.
“She just never stopped. She had this hospitable personality that went with her wherever she went,” Medinger said.
Florence Steichen, another Carondelet sister, said Delmore taught herself to recognize edible mushrooms, picking and serving them to trusting friends.
A 1996 profile of her in the Roseau Times-Region newspaper noted that during a visit to northern Minnesota, Delmore camped in a tent at Hayes Lake State Park at the age of 74.
“She knew how to live, and when she was in her prime, she couldn’t be beat,” Steichen said.
Delmore, who outlived her parents and her six brothers and sisters, planned her own funeral, which took place Tuesday. She directed Medinger to “be brief, be blunt, begone!” when she gave the homily.
A picture used in the services showed a white-haired Delmore wearing a bucket hat with the straps of a backpack over her shoulders along with a poem she wrote about November, when leafless trees “begin a dance, swaying, bowing, to secret songs, sung by the wind.”
After she was cremated, her ashes were placed in a cedar box that had belonged to her mother. The cross she was given when she made her vows was nestled in the ashes.
At her direction, her mourners rang bells in farewell as they sang “The Bells of Norwich,” and left the chapel singing, “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”