Yellowknifers say they will remember Elke Richter, who has passed away at the age of 61, for her warmth and the way she always made people laugh.
Richter, who owned Yellowknife restaurant Elke’s Table, passed away on Tuesday last week. Her daughter, Shania Beaulieu, said she had been diagnosed in August with glioblastoma, an aggressive type of brain cancer.
“She was a very happy and bubbly person and always laughing, always making other people laugh,” Beaulieu told Cabin Radio at the restaurant on 47 Street. “Very warm and welcoming. When you’d come here, she would always greet you with a smile.”
Beaulieu said she will cherish memories of travelling with her mother to Turkey, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. They would visit Richter’s home country of Germany every October and sometimes in the spring.
Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Richter moved from East to West Germany in 1984. At the time, she was given 24 hours by the government to pack up her things and leave, not knowing if she would see family or friends again.
“She was just so determined, so driven, but she made these big leaps and still kept that warmth and kindness,” said family friend Ainsley Zock-Dempsey.
“She kept doing these things that just took such guts and it was a pretty amazing life she lived.”
A friend to fishermen
Richter lived in Greece for a year and a half but found the weather too hot, so she moved to northern Canada. Beaulieu said it wasn’t just cooler temperatures that brought her mother to Yellowknife, but also her sense of adventure.
Many Yellowknifers remember Richter as a cook and server at fish restaurant Bullocks Bistro, where she worked for nearly two decades.
Longtime NWT fisherman Shawn Buckley, who owns Great Slave Lake Tours, said Richter will “surely be missed by a lot of people.”
He told Cabin Radio: “A lot of the fishermen were really good friends with her.”
Buckley said he liked Richter’s “gusto” and how she would “shoot from the hip.” He noted his son was born in Germany and when he visited Richter, they would learn German words.
“Talking German, his mother tongue, with Elke, it was pretty cute. It was really nice.”
Richter went on to open Elke’s Table, which celebrated its fifth anniversary this past summer.
“She always wanted her own place so she could run it by herself,” Beaulieu said.
Zock-Dempsey, who owns the building in which Elke’s Table is located, said Richter was “so proud of her food and she was so proud of the restaurant.”
‘Life of the party’
To Zock-Dempsey, Richter and Beaulieu became like family.
“She was the typical hard-headed, stubborn, hard-working, driven, kind-of stereotypical German, but then she has this whole other funny and playful [side],” Zock-Dempsey said of Richter. “She had this really warm heart and [was] fiercely loyal.”
She said Richter would often play games with and help to feed her one-year old daughter.
Meredith McNulty, who owns Mermaid and Moon Boutique – a neighbouring business on 47 Street – said she, Zock-Dempsey, and Richter often celebrated holidays together with their families.
“She’s always the life of the party,” McNulty said of Richter.
“She definitely has a very funny but very strong personality. Always telling jokes, always making people laugh.”
Richter, Zock-Dempsey, and McNulty collaborated to create the 47 Street Festival, which launched in August 2020, to support the arts community.
“I’m definitely happy that I got to know her while she was here,” McNulty said.
Since Richter’s passing, Beaulieu said many people have reached out to share memories and their condolences.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “An endless amount of love and support from everybody. Even people I don’t even know … It’s just amazing how many lives my mother has touched.”