Betty Schlesinger Noe, whose early love of music translated into a lifetime of philanthropy to advance it, died Wednesday at the Poydras Home in New Orleans. She was 87.
Noe was born in Abbeville in 1926. She took an early interest in music and attended LSU’s School of Music.
She lived in New Orleans since her marriage in 1955 to businessman James “Jimmie” Noe Jr., whose father had briefly served as governor of Louisiana upon the death of Gov. O.K. Allen in 1936.
The Noe family owned radio stations WNOE-AM/FM in New Orleans and the KNOE radio and television stations in Monroe but sold them about 25 years ago.
After college, Betty Noe became a social worker, which is how she met her husband at the Abbeville courthouse.
“She was a social worker looking up something for one of her clients, and he was looking up oil rights or oil lease records,” their daughter Claire Noe Koch said. Jimmie Noe died in 2005.
Koch said her mother loved the family’s Uptown home on Hampson Street, where she tended a rose garden. “She loved it because she felt like it was a country house in the city,” Koch said. “It was nothing grand and fancy.”
Noe lived in the house until about a year ago, when she entered the Poydras Home.
Noe bought a new organ for St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Camp Street, a donation that combined her two main philanthropic interests, furthering music and “anything to do with the Catholic Church or Catholic charities,” Koch said.
Noe also was one of the first to contribute to redoing and preserving the gardens behind St. Louis Cathedral, her daughter said.
She especially enjoyed helping the New Orleans Opera, Koch said, and “she loved to support young and up-and-coming singers.”
Getting a start in classical music is an expensive process, given such costs as music lessons and traveling to auditions, Koch said. “She was one of those kids that needed that help,” Koch said. “She grew up very modestly. She knew what it was like.”
Though Noe never became a performer herself, she was always active in church choirs, Koch said. It was her involvement with the St. Patrick’s choir that led to the donation of the new organ, she said.
Koch described her mother as the “life of the party.”
“She was just one of those people who could entertain,” she said. “She had a larger-than-life personality for telling funny jokes and making people feel welcome.”
Noe was appointed to the advisory committee of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington by President Ronald Reagan.
She was active in the New Orleans Opera Association and was a board member of the Women’s Opera Guild of New Orleans, where she also served as president, and the New Orleans Ballet Association. She was a member of the State Arts Council and the Louisiana State University Foundation. She was a Knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and a recipient of the Order of St. Louis.
Survivors include two sons, George Noe and James Noe III; three daughters, Claire Koch, Lisa Deane and Erin May; a sister, Barbara Broussard; and seven grandchildren.
A Mass will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at Good Shepherd Parish, 1025 Napoleon Ave., in New Orleans. Visitation will begin at 11:30 a.m. Burial will be in Metairie Cemetery. Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.