Detroit Catholic Central’s first president Richard Elmer dies aged 93



Those who knew him say that Reverend Richard Elmer went to Heaven, the place he always wanted to go.

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

“Oh boy! How do you sum up 93 years, six months and one day of life,” said current manager Patrick Fulton. “It’s quite a legacy. It’s a hell of a good race.

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

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

Before that, he was a regular at football games, staking a place of cheer along the sideline in a motorized cart.

“He was definitely passionate about life,” Fulton said. “He loved people and was really passionate about Catholic Central and the people who make up Catholic Central.

“He loved it when our school teams win and he also loved winning, especially when it came to advancing and promoting Catholic Central.”

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

Along with friends, Elmer traveled to Detroit to attend jazz and Motown concerts. In addition, he liked to talk about digging graves with his brother. On the hottest days, they would sit at the bottom of a pit, place planks over their heads and have their lunch surrounded by cool earth.

Fulton said his mentor kept his ways around surrounding himself with the right people and recognizing that there was work God wanted him to do.

He summed up Elmer’s philosophy: “If God wants me to be around, I will continue to work on behalf of the school and on its behalf.

The private men’s prep school located on Wixom Road in Novi posted a memorial for Elmer on their website.

He shares the prayer he wrote for his 90th birthday. He thought it was a good thing for people in need of concentration in life: “The main purpose of our existence is to go to Heaven. The richest food of our journey is the Holy Eucharist. Our special spokesperson is our blessed Mother. Jesus and Mary, be with us now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

His alumni have posted posts on Faith, Friendship, Compassion, Discipline, Athleticism, Sense of Humor, Contagious Smile, and other attributes of Elmer.

According to the published 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 high school as a teacher and spent 1967-1973 as a principal. He then held the position of sports director until 1978.

Elmer then moved to Washington, DC, to work as a senior administrator for the National Catholic Educational Association. He then served as Dean of Men at St. Thomas University 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 in securing, as president, the land and donations that enabled construction along Wixom Road.

While president emeritus, he led a collaboration in 2008 to open Sainte-Catherine de Siena, a private school for girls, in Wixom. Elmer was its first director and chaplain.

“(Father) Elmer remained fiercely devoted to his roles as President Emeritus of CC and Chaplain of St. Catherine until the time of his death,” the obituary read. “His life is a testament to the myriad of ways a human can be of service to others, and his life story will continue to serve as a beacon of faith, hope and love for many generations to come.”

Her survivors include her brother, Lawrence, and many relatives and extended family members.

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

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



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