Louise Soubry: Athlete. Nurse. Wife. Mother. Born May 5, 1932, in Sherbrooke, Que.; died May 4, 2019, in Winnipeg, of heart failure; aged 86.
Louise Fortier always had a natural caring way with people. As the oldest daughter in a family of four children, she helped look after her three siblings. She was a natural athlete – swimming, skiing and playing tennis while growing up in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. (She would play the last two sports into her late 70s, and was known for a mean forehand that could still shut any opponent down.)
Louise chose nursing as a career and trained at St. Mary’s Hospital in Montreal. She returned home to Sherbrooke to find herself caring for Belgian Paul Soubry while he was in isolation. All he could see were her eyes over the mask and he vowed to get to know her better. They married in 1957, and started their family of six children right away.
The family moved many times for Paul’s work, eventually settling in Winnipeg. Louise hung up her nursing whites and was a most dedicated and resourceful mother. She could turn one-pound of ground meat into a feast for her son’s friends when he decided to throw himself a birthday party without telling her. With a house full of teenagers playing multiple sports (and only one car), Louise would toss her bike in the back, park the car at school and leave the keys in the office. She’d then ride her bike to her own errands. But Louise was a constant worrier. If her kids were five minutes late, she would assume the worst and wasn’t sure whether to hug them or scold them once they got home.
When her eldest got his first apartment, Louise flew to Toronto with sewing shears, a sewing machine, painting supplies and a roast beef to make sure he was well outfitted. She did things like that for all her children as they grew up.
She gave her time to many boards and committees, including the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, St. Boniface Hospital and Cancer Care. She also continued to work on her golf game – once, after a wicked shot off a tee box, she hit a Canada goose and killed it, then wondered how to score it.
Sadly, when there finally was time to start to enjoy retirement years with Paul, he died after a fall in 2010.
At 80, Louise was stricken with Guillain-Barre syndrome, which left her paralyzed and breathing with a ventilator. Her mobility was affected but not her mind or her determination – she wanted to get better. She spent a year in intensive care and lobbied to be sent to a rehab hospital in Winnipeg where they did not usually take patients her age. She spent a year there in physio, proving to many that she was not giving up. Once in a care home, she lobbied to be released to her own home.
With the love and support of her family, she was able to go home again, and she found joy in the things we often take for granted: the smell of her home, watching the birds out her window. She would face more health challenges but refused to sell her car – just in case she was able to drive again. She suggested (with her trademark humour) that her family let her practice driving at the cemetery since she could not do any damage there.
Louise set the standard for how to deal with adversity. Even in the last weeks of her life, she was not scared, just sad to have to go – she still had more things to accomplish.
Ann Lovell is Louise’s oldest daughter.
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