Most people can only hope to achieve what 89-year-old Ilse Thompson accomplished in her life. The Halifax woman passed away this week, after life full of music, activism, and learning.  

Thompson was a musician, a mother and her family described her as a woman with an abundant laugh.  

Thompson was also a holocaust survivor, saved by her mother Asta, who was determined to get her daughter onto the "Kindertransport" train for England.  

Her mother died in Auschwitz.  

But Thompson's daughter Judith said her mother carried with her a legacy of music.  

 "They lived in an apartment in Berlin when she was a little girl, and she couldn't get to sleep unless she heard her father playing the piano," said Judith.   

In her wartime diary, Thompson wrote of the night her life was changed by a perfomance by a famous cello player.  

"I think I was in a bit of a trance throughout his playing," Judith read from her mother's diary. "This is the instrument I must learn to play, as soon as possible."  

After moving to Toronto, Thompson met her husband Ray while playing in a trio.  

"I was kind of shy and retiring," he said. "And she was loud and outgoing all the time ... quite opposite in personality, and yet we were deeply in love."  

In Nazi Germany, it was extremely difficult for a Jewish child to get an education so Thompson was largely self-educated.   She decided at the age of 49 to go to university for a music degree.  

"It actually took a lot because it turned out that she had nothing that was recognized as a qualification," her son David told CBC News.   

Thomspon graduated her music program in 1976.  

"Certainly never handed in an assignment late, because as soon as she got it, she finished it," said David.   

Thompson died of Alzheimers.  

Ray Thompson remembers how the disease eventually forced her to give up many things, including the cello she loved. But hers was a life rich with experiences.  

"We did so much and saw so much, and did so much together that it was a good life," said Ray.