Detroit Catholic Central first president Richard Elmer dies at age 93

Those who knew him say Rev. Richard Elmer went to heaven, the place he always wanted to be.

The former teacher, principal, sports director, and president of Detroit Catholic Central High School died on November 4th. He was 93 years old.

“Oh God! How do you sum up the life of 93 years, six months and a day,” said today’s Headmaster Patrick Fulton. “That’s quite an inheritance. It’s a damn good run.

“He had his abilities and his health to the end. He went where he always wanted to go. “

Elmer, a native of Detroit, had been in nursing homes and hospices since the spring.

Previously, he was a familiar sight at soccer matches when he staked out a jubilant spot on the sidelines in a motorized cart.

“He was definitely very fun-loving,” said Fulton. “He loved the people and was really excited about the Catholic Headquarters and the people who make up the Catholic Headquarters.

“He loved it when our school teams win, and he also loved to win, especially when it came to promoting and promoting Catholic Headquarters in some way.”

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                                                                                                                            Father Richard Elmer Stadium of Detroit Catholic Central.

Fulton, also a priest, lived with Elmer for about five years and valued his stories of the early days in high school.

Elmer traveled to Detroit with friends to see jazz and Motown acts. He also enjoyed talking to his brother about digging graves. On the warmest days, they would sit in the bottom of a pit, put planks over their heads, and eat their lunch surrounded by cool earth.

Fulton said his mentor kept his lively manner by surrounding himself with the right people and realizing that there was work that God wanted him to do.

He summarized Elmer’s philosophy: “If God wants me, I will continue to work for the school and for him.”

The all-male, private college preparatory school on Wixom Road in Novi has posted a memorial to Elmer on its website.

It shares the prayer he wrote on his 90th birthday. He thought it was good for people who need focus in life: “The main purpose of our existence is to get to heaven. The richest nourishment for our journey is the Holy Eucharist. Our special spokeswoman is our blessed mother. Jesus and Mary, please be with us now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

His former students have posted messages about Elmer’s faith, friendship, compassion, discipline, athleticism, sense of humor, infectious smile, and other qualities.

The Father Richard Elmer Stadium is dedicated to those responsible for the campus.  The 1946 CC class member was President of the Student Council before becoming a Basilian, and then served the CC as a teacher, advisor, assistant principal, school principal, sports director, development manager, and as the first president of the CC.

According to the obituary, Elmer graduated from Detroit Catholic Central High School in 1946. He attended college in Toronto and was ordained a priest in 1957.

He returned to the grammar school as a teacher and was its rector from 1967 to 1973. After that he was sports director until 1978.

Elmer then moved to Washington, DC to work as the senior administrator for the National Catholic Educational Association. He then was Dean of Men at the University of St. Thomas in Houston.

He returned to Detroit Catholic Central in 1990 as director of development and alumni relations and became its first president in 2000.

School officials see him as the driving force behind securing the land and donations that made construction along Wixom Road possible as President.

During his time as President Emeritus in 2008, he led a collaboration to open the St. Catherine of Siena, a private school for girls, in Wixom. Elmer served as the first rector and chaplain.

“(Father) Elmer remained true to his roles as President Emeritus of CC and Chaplain of St. Catherine until his death,” read the obituary. “His life serves as evidence of the innumerable ways in which a person can serve others, and his life story will also serve as a beacon of faith, hope and love for many generations to come.”

The Rev. Richard Elmer

His survivors include his brother Lawrence and many relatives and other family members.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Detroit Catholic Central in honor of Rev. Elmer. Send checks to 27225 Wixom Road, Novi, MI 48374 or make a safe online gift by visiting

Contact reporter Susan Vela at [email protected] or 248-303-8432. Follow her on Twitter @susanvela.

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