Sister Mary Adolph Schulmeister taught 62 years

June 20, 1994|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Sun Staff Writer

Sister Mary Adolph Schulmeister, who taught school more than 62 years and was a nun for almost 82 years, died June 13 of carcinoma of the liver at her home at Villa Assumpta. She was 101.

The former Bertha Elizabeth Schulmeister, whose order was School Sisters of Notre Dame, officially retired in 1969 after teaching middle school in Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Washington for 62 years. But she continued to teach part time until 1973.

She then was a teacher's aide for three years before finally retiring and moving in 1976 to Villa Assumpta near Charles Street and Bellona Avenue.

Sister Adolph entered the Notre Dame community July 2, 1907, and became a nun five years later when she professed her first vows. She took her final vows July 26, 1919.

Even in her later years, her variety of interests took her beyond what might be considered normal duties for a nun.

In 1991, she began participating in a study sponsored by the University of Kentucky that related the life expectancy in adults and the dementia and disabilities of the elderly to the socioeconomic levels, cognitive abilities and educational experiences of their youth.

A year earlier, she had decided to donate her body to the Anatomy Board of Maryland after having Sister Bernice Feilinger, coordinator of health services at Villa Assumpta, "check if they would want someone as old as she."

For the Kentucky study, she agreed to donate her brain for studies into the cause and treatment of debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer's.

"She was amazing; her mind was wonderful," said Sister Bernice, who taught with Sister Adolph in Pittsburgh in the late 1950s. "She cared what was happening everywhere.

"It was like she would take a map and pray for the people of a particular country because she knew they were having problems."

And Sister Adolph -- whom Sister Bernice called "my first assistant" -- helped incapacitated residents at Villa Assumpta by doing such chores as clearing dishes and guiding others about how and when to take their medication.

An avid reader, Sister Adolph often could be found at Villa Assumpta in traditional nun's garb, huddled over a newspaper, book, or the Bible with her customary study aids: a magnifying glass and a green long-billed visor.

"We used to tease her about being a bookie because she had this green visor she wore because the glare from the lights bothered her eyes," Sister Bernice said. "There she was, she'd have her veil on but she'd also have her visor."

A Philadelphia native, Sister Adolph received her primary education at the city's St. Boniface School. She graduated from Holy Angels Academy in Fort Lee, N.J., before receiving her teaching certificate for Maryland and New Jersey in 1932.

A memorial Mass was to be offered at 10 a.m. today at the Chapel of Villa Assumpta. Among the sister's mementos displayed during the service will be her green visor.

Her sister, Sister Mary Agreda Schulmeister, who died in 1943, also was in the SSND order.

Survivors include a brother, Arthur Schulmeister of Philadelphia; and a sister, Cecilia Schmidt of Rockledge, Pa.

Memorial contributions may be made to the School Sisters of Notre Dame, 6401 N. Charles St., Baltimore 21212.

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