sister florence kane


July 9, 1921 - July 20, 2012

Opened Many to the Gift of Sound

When Sister Florence Kane entered the community in 1938, her sister, S. Frances, had preceded her by four years. S. Frances had even been missioned at St. Joseph’s Institute for the Deaf before Florence arrived there. But, while S. Frances went on to study philosophy and theology to become a college professor, S. Florence spent her entire active life at SJI as a teacher and audiologist, helping hundreds of young students and older adults cope with hearing loss with her exceptional ability to fit hearing devices.

S. Florence was born into a large family in Stark, Wis., on July 9, 1921, sharing life with eight brothers and sisters. The family struggled financially, but with the overwhelming generosity of their Aunt Virginia, their mother’s sister, the six daughters were able to attend and graduate from St. Joseph’s Academy in Green Bay. There she grew to know the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Florence entered the community in September of 1938. The following March she received the habit and name, S. Mary Fanchea. Her first and only assignment was to St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf, beginning in 1941. She immediately applied herself to learning the intricacies of teaching deaf children and ultimately was given her own classroom. An engaging teacher, S. Florence used skits to illustrate stories. Imagine how her students loved making real ice cream after reading a story on ice cream making! For First Communion, she gave each child a handmade prayer book to reinforce their learning of prayers.

S. Florence received her master’s degree in audiology from Northwestern University in 1956. Inspired by her own teachers and her sense of professionalism S. Florence kept abreast of the newest trends in deaf education. Deeply committed to providing her students with the best amplification possible, she worked with people knowledgeable in electronics to make sure listening devices were powerful enough for profoundly deaf students to access sound. With S. Roseanne Siebert, she traveled to Japan, Thailand, and the Philippines to visit programs for the deaf. She attended conferences with S. Arlene Eveld to learn about the latest testing equipment and newest hearing aids. Fitting those hearing devices within the tiny, flexible ears of her young charges became her specialty. S. Florence welcomed the advancement of cochlear implants. "The sooner they can do that surgery, the better the chances that child will be able to hear and communicate," she said.

Her expertise spread far. Soon adults came to see her, begging her for help in fitting hearing aids. She gladly worked with them. She felt it best, however, to spread her charity first "at home," so in 1956 she began to volunteer at Nazareth on weekends, during the summer and at Christmas vacation time. She regarded this charity work a special blessing because it gave her the opportunity to know the sisters as friends as well as clients. Also, during her volunteer time, she maintained a classroom, monitored a dormitory and supervised the playground and the dining room at SJI. Probably more than 100 sisters were helped by S. Florence during the past 55 years.

In May 1944, she wrote the provincial asking to be allowed to make her final vows, saying, "I sincerely promise to be a faithful and loyal subject. My big aim in life will be to be a good religious, to live a life worthy of my calling." S. Florence retired to Nazareth Living Center in 2011, where she truly fulfilled this promise. She was a blessing to all as a faithful Sister of St. Joseph. May she rest in peace.

S. Rita Louise Huebner

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