Detroit Catholic Central leader dies

By: Brian Wells | Novi Note | Published November 22, 2021

 The Rev. Richard Elmer, a prominent figure at Detroit Catholic Central High School, died Nov. 4. He was 93.

The Rev. Richard Elmer, a prominent figure at Detroit Catholic Central High School, died Nov. 4. He was 93.

Photo provided by Detroit Catholic Central High School


NOVI — A man with a great dedication to Detroit Catholic Central High School who served in several roles with the school in addition to being an alumnus died earlier this month.

The Rev. Richard J. Elmer, a dedicated Basilian priest whose educational influence reached generations of Catholic youth in the metro Detroit area, died Thursday, Nov. 4. He was 93.

“He was just a remarkable man,” said Ed Turek, the school’s president. “He had a tender heart; just a remarkable man for (Catholic Central), but also, more importantly, just a great priest and friend.”

Four months before Catholic Central High School was founded in Detroit, Elmer was born on May 3, 1928. He attended Epiphany parish and grade school and graduated from Detroit Catholic Central in 1946.

“Smart, quick, and competitive, he was involved at school and on the playing fields, enjoying football, baseball and handball,” the school said in a press release.

During his senior year, he was both student council and class president, co-editor of the school yearbook, a member of the Science Club and salutatorian.

After graduating, he obtained his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Toronto in 1952 and became ordained in 1957. He went on to receive a master’s degree in guidance and counseling from the University of Detroit in 1963.

Elmer returned to Detroit Catholic Central as a teacher from 1952 until 1954, and again from 1960 until 1961, when he became a guidance counselor at the school. He remained in that position until he became the school’s principal in 1967. In 1973, he became the school’s athletic director, and he returned to his position as guidance counselor.

In 1978, when the school relocated, he moved to Washington, D.C., to work for the National Catholic Education Association, where he served in a senior administrative role to help organize its largest event. After his term was completed, he was appointed dean of men at the University of St. Thomas in Houston.

Elmer returned to Detroit Catholic Central in 1990 as the school’s director of development and alumni relations, and in 2000 he became the school’s first president. As president, he worked to secure the land and donations to build the school’s current home on Wixom Road in Novi.

In 2008, while serving as the school’s president emeritus, he spearheaded a collaboration to open St. Catherine of Siena, an all-girls Catholic school in Wixom. There, he served as the school’s first principal and chaplain.

“Fr. Elmer remained fiercely dedicated to his roles as CC’s President Emeritus and St. Catherine’s Chaplain until the time of his passing,” the press release said.

Elmer was focused on meeting people on their spiritual journey and helping them along, Turek said.

“He just wanted to get souls to heaven,” Turek said.

Memorial donations in Elmer’s honor can be made to Detroit Catholic Central by mailing a check to 27225 Wixom Road, Novi, MI 48374, or online at