Remembering Our Alumnae
Sr. Jean Marie Wheeler ‘49
Daughter of Charity Sister Jean Marie Wheeler died at St. Louise House, Menands, N.Y. on Thursday, January 17, 2013 surrounded by her Sisters in community, staff and friends. Sister Jean Marie, daughter of Nina Marie Barr and Ferdinand C. Wheeler, was born in Chicago and grew up in the Bronx with her six sisters. She entered the Daughters of Charity in 1932 and spent her years of ministry in a variety of educational settings. Sister was an elementary school teacher in Cathedral, Syracuse, N.Y.; St James School, Johnson City, N.Y. and Catherine Laboure School, Harrisburg, Pa.
At Kennedy Child Study Center in New York City Sister worked with the retarded. After earning her master's degree in education from St. John's University, Jamaica, N.Y., Sister became principal of St. John's Alternative Elementary School in Albany, an ungraded school for 108 children performing far below grade level. Sister was convinced that the only way out of poverty was a good foundation in basic skills. Among her favorite years were the 25 she spent in St. John's, Bedford- Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Here Sister worked with both youngsters and illiterate adults who wanted to learn basic skills. She discovered their needs were as great as the children she had taught. Because of her innovative work for the poor in these programs and in Albany and her deep understanding and empathy with problem children, Sister Jean Marie received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Niagara University in 1988.
Sister Jean Marie had four Sisters who became Daughters of Charity and one who became a Religious of the Sacred Heart. Sister was welcomed to St. Louise House in 2000. In her later years her great pleasure was to enjoy her companions, to observe what was going on around her, and to read. The diminishment of her hearing isolated her somewhat, so reading was a gift. Sister Jean Marie is predeceased by her parents and five of her sisters, Sister Mary Cecilia a Religious of the Sacred Heart, Nina Wheeler Blake, Hilda Barr Dixon, Sister Madeleine and Sister Zoe both of which were Daughters of Charity. She was joined by her sister, Sister Elaine, Daughter of Charity into eternity on Friday, January 18, 2013.
An article about the Wheeler Sisters appeared in January 2013 in the the Albany Times-Union: Sisters Were Sisters, Inseparable to the End.