Lifelong lessons

Accomplished educator’s passion for community motivates long legacy of serving others

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A well-respected, kind and empathetic professor, Louisa Josephine Loeb was driven, not just with a passion for education, but also social justice and equality, and contributing to community.

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A well-respected, kind and empathetic professor, Louisa Josephine Loeb was driven, not just with a passion for education, but also social justice and equality, and contributing to community.

“She really believed in inclusion, whether it be from a literacy point of view, from a poverty point of view, or a race relations point of view,” says her son, Gerry Loeb.

Loeb, an educator, editor and author, died in Winnipeg on Dec. 16. She was 97.

Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press. Local- World War 2 permit teachers honored at tea at government house. Louisa Loeb, a permit teacher herself, compiled book of 20 permit teachers experiences. 070828.

Loeb was born in Halbstadt, Man. in 1924, married in 1944, and divorced in 1953, while her two sons were still very young. The single mother raised her children at a time when there were few resources for women in her situation. She found a way to be the sole parent while also pursuing a life of learning, teaching and community involvement.

“She was very much involved in education,” Gerry says. “That’s something that she did all through her life until she retired, and she was extremely involved in volunteering. She was able to take my brother and I to school, which provided child care and additional supervision.”

During the height of the Second World War, the Department of Education recruited high school students to fill vacancies left by teachers who had joined the Armed Forces. While attending Mennonite Collegiate Institute, Loeb was offered the opportunity to teach on permit.

She attended the Central Normal School (1944-1945), then went on to teach in rural schools for many years before working at a number of schools in Winnipeg School Division as a teacher, guidance counsellor and special needs director.

While teaching, she also furthered her own education, earning a bachelor’s degree in education followed by a master’s degree from the University of Manitoba.

Loeb then took classes in special education at the University of Saskatchewan and, in 1978, completed a doctoral degree and received her PhD magna cum laude at the University of Munich with a dissertation on Ukrainian poetry and folk literature, which later became the basis for the book Down Singing Centuries: Folk Literature of the Ukraine, published in 1981.

Ed Schreyer, Governor General of Canada at the time, wrote in part in his forward: “There is Canadian history of a specific kind in these pages. There is also a titillating insight into Ukrainian hearth, home and family by way of the historical ballads, songs and epic poems that Dr. Loeb has compiled from the translations.

“This is enjoyable reading, but it is also relevant for those who wish to know more about the classics and the history of this Slavic part of the Canadian mosaic.”

That book was a particularly meaningful accomplishment for Loeb, who taught from the 1970s to 1990s as a professor in the Department of Administration and Education Services at Brandon University.

“She was proud of her heritage,” Gerry says.

In 2005, in retirement and at age 79, she organized annual reunions to recognize permit teachers. After that, her book, Manitoba Permit Teachers of World War II, documenting the experiences of young girls recruited out of high school to teach in one-room school houses across the province during the Second World War, was honoured at a Government House reception.

“This was something that she took on with a passion. It was very important for her,” Gerry says, adding his mother never stopped pursuing higher goals while giving her time and resources to organizations that benefited from her knowledge and experience.

‘Because she was involved in her education, university in other cities and continents, she was away from home. My brother and I grew up on our own. She wasn’t a hands-on parent but she trusted us. She didn’t really sit still; she was always on the go.”

Gerry fondly remembers an active and rich multicultural household in the early years.

“I was in university when she opened the house to international students from India, Pakistan, Iraq, Poland and Jamaica,” he said.

“We had a Hindu wedding in our living room, complete with a tiger skin rug with an enormous head, and hot coals from a little barbecue. She was really strong on her openness to multiculturalism.”

When Loeb lost her son Terry in a car crash in 1978, the traumatic event left her wanting to further build family connections with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Loeb remained active in retirement, volunteering and serving in various capacities on several boards.

In 2007, she suffered a stroke. After therapy at Riverview Health Centre she moved to Rosewood Village Retirement Residence where her personal determination continued throughout her health challenges.

“We spent months at our kitchen table with whiteboard and cards. She regained a lot of her ability. She’d do a lot of knitting for other seniors and homeless people,” Gerry recalls.

In 2019, Loeb moved to Charleswood Care Centre. While there, she contracted COVID-19 before vaccinations were available and, even in advancing age, survived it.

Loeb loved to teach and help others, believing it was important, valuable work. Her lifelong commitment to working for the education and well-being of children, both at home and abroad, resulted in numerous awards including from the Manitoba Council for Exceptional Children, the Social Planning Council, the Aboriginal Literacy Foundation, Manitoba’s Black community, and the City of Winnipeg Race Relations committee.

Loeb’s multiple personal and professional accomplishments, both in the world of academia and in community, have also been recognized by other groups and associations and in numerous publications including The World Who’s Who of Women.

In keeping with Loeb’s lifelong dedication to the community, this memorable Manitoban continued giving back even in her final years, teaching herself to knit so she could make scarves to donate to the Christmas Cheer Board’s knitting program.

Hers was a long life of service to others.

Gerry sums up her life succinctly, “She wanted very much to help.”

fpcity@freepress.mb.ca

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