BALKE, Mary Noël Balke BA ALA
Born December 25th, 1918, Londonderry, Northern Ireland, to William (Paddy) & Jenny Schoales.
Died peacefully December 24, 2011, in her lovely home on Denman Island, surrounded by her daughter & friends.
The Irish countryside of Derry & Donegal was the heart of Mary Noël’s childhood, with school at Londonderry High School (now Foyle College). Graduating across the sea, from Sheffield University (1939), then library school, Noël worked in Sheffield City Libraries. During the war effort, she became patent librarian, then research assistant in X-ray crystallography at Brown-Firth Research Labs in Sheffield. After maximum X-ray exposure, Noël was transferred as librarian and information officer to Signals Research and Development Establishment, Christchurch, Hampshire. There she met, and married Royal Canadian Corp of Signals officer, Nicholas Balke, who brought her to Canada in 1945. Nicholas’ military career took the family to various places, the longest being Ottawa. While her children were young, Noël worked as a free-lance writer and broadcaster for the CBC and various newspapers and she was awarded the Memorial Award, Canadian Women’s Press Club in 1956. Returning to libraries, she became reference librarian at the Ottawa Public Library and then Chief Librarian of the National Gallery of Canada,1964-79. Among other memberships, publications and achievements, Noël was a founding member and chairman of the Art Library Committee, Canadian Library Association.
On retirement, Nicholas and Noël built their dream home in Nanoose, BC, in 1980. Noel loved her daily Tai Chi and with Nicholas enjoyed ballroom dancing and the theatre. Noël’s hobbies included amateur acting in younger years, as well as languages, italic script, walking, swimming, skiing and horseback riding, but throughout life, if not active, she could always be found engrossed in her favorite pastime, books and reading.
Noël brought her intelligence, patience and elegance to numerous community projects and organizations: in BC, such as Coastal Tai Chi Club, FSNA, Probus Club, Peace Group. Noël maintained a livelong love for nature and the environment; she was an elder at the Clayoquot Sound Protest Camp in 1993. Noël was given a Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada, in recognition of significant contribution to compatriots, community and to Canada.
Noël continues to live in the hearts of her son William (Linda) (Ottawa), daughter Jennifer (Denman Island) and sister Patricia Westover (Sutton, Quebec). Predeceased by loving husband Nicholas, and sister Maude Schoales.
A celebration will be held at the end of June 2012 – for details please contact Jenny @ 250-335-2151.