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NELSON HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1954

Lorne LOOMER

Lorne has a B.S.P. (Pharmacy) and B.A. (International Relations) from UBC.  A member of three Canadian Championship UBC rowing crews, Lorne won an Olympic gold medal in Melbourne in 1956, was captain of the gold medal Commonwealth crew in Cardiff, Wales in 1958, and a member of the silver medal Olympic crew in Rome in 1960.

He married his wife Elisabeth in 1963 in Copenhagen.  They celebrated 41 years of happily married life this August.  Lorne and Elisabeth started the University rowing crew before raising their two daughters, Lise-Lotte and Anne-Lise in Victoria.  Lisa-Lotte Loomer-Scott (computer science) lives in Vancouver and has two daughters, Chloe age 7 and Ilse age 5.  Anne-Lise married Darren (architect) in August 2004 and works for the University of Victoria in Geneva, Switzerland. Lorne has cruised with his family to Alaska, the Hawaiian Islands, Mexico, the Caribbean, Venezuela, the Panama Canal, and motored during summer holidays throughout Western Canada to southern California.

Lorne has been a pharmacist manager at McGill & Orme Prescriptions since 1967.  Interested in painting since a child and having worked at the Vancouver home of B.C. Binning as a student, Lorne has been painting seriously since 1985.  Through the Federation of Canadian Artists he has studied at workshops and summer seminars with leading watercolourists of international acclaim.  For nine years he studied at Pearson College of the Pacific at the Summer School of Arts and now teaches watercolour painting there in the summer and is a member of the Board of Directors.  Lorne has had 16 one-man shows and his paintings hang in private collections in London, Copenhagen, other European cities, Canada, the United States, Australia and Brazil.

He is also a member of the BC Sports Hall of Fame (Vancouver), the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame (Toronto), Olympic Club Canada, the UBC and Univ. of Victoria Sports Halls of  Fame.

Memories:

Only wonderful memories of school (grades 1-13) and the old Nelson High School with all the associated activities; the Civic Centre – the ball park, movie theatre and basketball courts.  Too many happy, happy days with my family and friends over 14 years in Nelson.

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Lorne is seated third from the front

1956 UBC Four Oared Rowing Crew

OBITUARY FOR LORNE

Rower Lorne Loomer won surprise Olympic gold medal

An unheralded quartet of student athletes from Vancouver surprised the world, including their own grateful countrymen, in 1956 by winning an Olympic gold medal in rowing.

The four – Don Arnold (stroke), Walter d’Hondt (No. 3), Lorne Loomer (No. 2), and Archie MacKinnon (bow) – were teamed earlier in the year. The young rowers were given a four-oared boat of their own almost as an afterthought after they failed to earn starter’s spots in Canada’s eight-oared boat.

Even after they won the Canadian championship in an unofficial world-record time, the four were told they would have to pay their own way to compete at the Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. A campaign in British Columbia raised funds to send the students to the Games.

They returned home in style, alighting from an airliner with gold medals. A crowd of 500 greeted them at the airport in Vancouver, where they were hailed by the provincial government as “heroes in every sense of the word.” They received a gold watch from the city and a signet ring from the lieutenant-governor.

Mr. Loomer, a quiet powerhouse in the boat, died of esophageal cancer in Victoria on New Year’s Day, at 79. He won other rowing championships and competed at the 1960 Olympics before becoming the founding coach of the University of Victoria’s rowing program, guiding scores of young men and women to their own Olympic competitions.

“Lorne never got overly excited or hyper,” Mr. Arnold said recently. “If he had a job to do, he would do it. He wouldn’t give up. We were all so strongheaded.”

Lorne Kenneth Loomer was born in Penticton, B.C., on March 11, 1937, to Lucy Helen (née Dedolph) and John Claire Loomer, a high school teacher and, later, principal. Lorne was raised in the city of Nelson, B.C., nestled on Kootenay Lake amid the Selkirk Mountains, where he graduated from high school before enrolling at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver.

The university’s fledgling rowing program was run in co-operation with the Vancouver Rowing Club, which had a boat house in Stanley Park as well as shells for use by students. The coach was Frank Read, a successful hotelier with a reputation as a disciplinarian who insisted his program make up for in training what it lacked in finances. He promised the athletes “a summer you’ll hate to remember.” The rowers shared spartan quarters in a condemned house a few minutes from Coal Harbour, in whose waters they were expected to be every morning at 6 a.m. They slept in bunk beds left from the university’s wartime officers’ training program.

When not training by rowing hundreds of kilometres in Vancouver harbour, the men worked as labourers, operating jackhammers, loading lumber, wielding an axe, and helping one summer to build the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

Mr. Loomer and the other three failed to qualify for the varsity team, so they trained as spares. As the Canadian Olympic trials approached in 1956, it was decided the quartet might as well compete as a team at the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta in Ontario. The Easterners expected a crew from Brockville, Ont., to dominate, but the Westerners pulled away early and won by a shocking 10 lengths.

In the Olympic competition on Lake Wendouree, a windswept, man-made lake about 120 kilometres from Melbourne, the coxless four from Vancouver quickly established themselves as favourites. They defeated a German crew by more than 11 seconds to win their heat before posting an incredible 20.7-second win over a fine French boat in a semifinal showdown.

Disaster nearly struck in the final, when all four washed out in the opening stroke. They quickly recovered from the rookie mistake. It took nearly half the two-kilometre course before they caught up to the Italian boat, and by then there was no slowing the Canadians, who defeated the American crew from the Detroit Boat Club by 9.6 seconds with the French taking the bronze medal and the Italians finishing fourth. The victory marked Canada’s first-ever gold medal in rowing at the Olympics. The triumph seemed all the more remarkable when their classmates in the eights crew finished second against a powerhouse team from Yale. One unexpected reward was to be invited to dine with the Duke of Edinburgh at a luncheon for Commonwealth athletes.

Two years later, Mr. Loomer served as captain of the eights crew that won the gold medal at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games held in Cardiff, Wales. Their boat defeated Australian and English crews on Llyn Padarn, a lake in northwestern Wales. It was Canada’s only gold medal victory at the 1958 Games.

In 1960, Mr. Loomer was invited to join Keith Donald in the coxless pairs competition. They failed to reach the podium at the Olympics in Rome. Meanwhile, Mr. Loomer’s place in the eights was taken by David Anderson, a future federal environment minister, who shared a silver medal after finishing behind a combined German team on Lake Albano.

In 1963, Mr. Loomer married Elisabeth Baess, a competitive yachting sailor from Denmark whose brother, Klaus, won an Olympic bronze in the Dragon class at the 1948 Olympics. Also in 1963, Mr. Loomer founded the rowing program at the new University of Victoria, which was establishing a campus on the grounds of a former army base at Gordon Head, north of Victoria. Mr. Loomer had graduated from UBC with a pharmacy degree and an arts degree in international relations. He was for many years a pharmacy manager for McGill & Orme in Victoria.

Mr. Loomer joined his three Olympic gold medal-winning teammates in being inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame (1957), the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame (1958), British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame (1966), and the University of British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame (1993). As a coach, Mr. Loomer was inducted into the Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame (1993) and the University of Victoria Sports Hall of Fame (2002). His final public honour took place in September, 2016 with the naming of the Lorne and Elisabeth Loomer Rowing Room in the Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities on the UVic campus.

Mr. Loomer was predeceased by his wife, who died in 2013. He leaves behind their two daughters, Lise-Lotte and Anne-Lise, and four grandchildren.

Late in life, he took up painting. As a student, he had worked at and for a time resided in the famous West Vancouver home of the painter B.C. Binning, a residence that is now a national historic site. Mr. Binning, who headed the university’s fine arts department, often painted nautical scenes, so the two shared an interest in life on the sea. The painter encouraged the youth. Mr. Loomer eventually became an instructor himself, teaching watercolour painting at the Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts, near Victoria. Mr. Loomer held more than a dozen one-man shows. He became an expert in making brushes by beating with a stone the tips of bark washed ashore, the preferred wood being red cedar, the very material from which his championship rowing shell had been made.

 

University of Victoria Legacy Award citation, 2003:


Lorne Loomer Rowing
Lorne Loomer graduated from Nelson High School in 1954 after a distinguished school rowing career. He attended the University of British Columbia and was selected to compete in the 1956 Canadian Olympic trials. Loomer, along with his three team-mates, astounded the rowing world when they went on to claim Olympic gold in the 1956 Melbourne Games. In the following four years, Loomer would add a gold medal at the 1958 Commonwealth Games and silver at the 1960 Rome Olympics to his list of accomplishments. It was with this remarkable experience that Loomer built the UVic rowing program—a program that today reflects his determination, competitiveness and his success.

 

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