Obituary: Louise Toppe Burns |

Obituary: Louise Toppe Burns

– December 5, 2022

Born in Rockford, Illinois, daughter of Iven and Evelyn Toppe, Louise Burns passed away after a brief illness on December 5, 2022, in Berkeley, California. She attended Augsburg College in St. Paul, Minnesota, the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, and graduated with an honors degree in occupational therapy in 1963 from the University of Illinois Medical School in Chicago.

In 1964, she married Thomas Burns, moving to New York City, where they lived for two years. She then lived eight years in Germany, where their two sons were born. In 1974, the family moved to Berkeley, and in 1985 bought a cabin in Soda Springs, where, in recent years, they spent about half of each year.

California offered the opportunity to pursue her lifelong interest in sports and fitness. Louise participated in many endurance events, including long-distance cycling, cross-country skiing, and road races. She ran 23 marathons, including 4 Boston Marathons, the first time in one of the early years that women were officially invited. She finished third in the 1976 Pikes Peak Marathon.

On Donner Summit, she participated in many events, including 5 circuits of Lake Tahoe on her bicycle, dozens of PCT hikes from Donner Summit to Squaw Valley, 4 Tours of the California Alps (aka the Death Ride). She skied all of the major races in the area, including the Great Race, the Gold Rush, Echo to Kirkwood, and the Mammoth Marathon. She summited many of the Northern California peaks including Lassen, Lola, Rose, Tallac, Matterhorn Peak, and Half Dome.

Her interest in women’s sports led her to join a friend in developing Women on the Run, a San Francisco based women’s fitness and apparel company. As vice-president, Louise was in charge of developing fitness guidelines and organizing a series of all-women’s road races in cities across the country.

After Women on the Run, Inc. was sold to a large apparel manufacturer, Louise joined Hero Arts, Inc., a design graphics firm based in Emeryville. As executive vice-president, she was instrumental in building the company into the nation’s leading manufacturer of hand-made rubber stamps and stamping accessories. Under her leadership as editor, Hero Arts catalogues won 3 Gold and 4 Silver Awards in annual Catalogue Age Awards Competitions.

Mourning her loss are her loving husband Tom, sons Erik (Maria João) of Lisbon, Portugal and Michael (Cori) of San Francisco, grandsons Tomás, Francisco, and Milo, granddaughters Carolina and Maxine, and other family members. Services will be private. Her ashes will be distributed on Donner Summit and her favorite bird, the Mountain Chickadee, will sing.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Truckee Donner Land Trust, PO Box 8816, Truckee, California 96162

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