sister mary alexandra kuhn


August 14, 1910 - January 25, 2013

Like her plants, she grew in beauty and grace

Sister Alexandra was born on August 14, 1910, in Indianapolis, Ind. Her parents, Anton and Elizabeth Schier Kuhn, named her Clare Anna when they had her baptized at Sacred Heart Church in the heart of the south side of the city. Theirs was a large family with five boys and four girls.

Her teachers at Sacred Heart were the Sisters of St. Joseph, and they, along with her family, nurtured her vocation. After graduating from high school, she left for Carondelet, and, on the feast of St. Joseph in 1929, she received the habit and name S. Mary Alexandra.

As many did, Sister began teaching on the elementary level. Her first assignment was Notre Dame School in Wellston, Mo. From there she moved on to St. Roch’s School and St. Bridget’s School, both in St. Louis. Rural life in Sedalia, Mo., called to her in 1928. There she fostered her love for the outdoors and shared her love for plants with her students. Beginning in 1946, she embarked on teaching secondary students—in Hannibal and St. Louis, Mo.; Marquette and Negaunee, Mich.; Sacred Heart in Indianapolis, Ind.; St. Francis DeSales in Denver, Colo.; and St. Joseph High School in Atlanta, Ga. For one year (1950 – 1951) she taught at St. Joseph High School for Black Students in St. Louis.

She was an exceptional science teacher, teaching both chemistry and biology. Absolutely dedicated to her students, she gifted them with her sincerity, her wit and her willingness always to give of herself. Annually she entered her sophomore biology students into local and national contests and frequently mentored winners. Those students who found studies difficult had a friend in S. Alexandra. At her classroom desk before school, during lunch hour and after school, she worked hard that her students be successful at their education.

From 1973 to 1975, she engaged in pastoral care at St. Joseph Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., but being the generous sister that she was, when the need arose, she returned to classroom teaching at St. Anthony’s High School in St. Louis.

Finally, at the age of 70, she retired to Carondelet. No rocking chair for her, however. Forming a partnership with S. Miriam Ruth Karl, the two friends dubbed themselves the Proprietors of St. Joseph Garden and Workshop. Through their persistent efforts at recycling, they were able to purchase their scooter, “Bay,” to make the rounds at the motherhouse.

Her ministry of gardening took a different turn when S. Alexandra moved to Nazareth in 1993. Noticing no plants on the windowsills, she undertook a new venture. She noted, “It’s like a second career. You don’t just retire; you take on some job you can do.” Her philosophy was, “You have to keep active. It’s easier to just sit around and read, but you need to do more,” she said.

All growing things on Cass Avenue stood at attention when she came by to water them. She was especially proud of her Mark McGwire plant, which held a trophy to the accomplishments of the St. Louis Cardinal who hit 70 home runs in a season.

Always a teacher, always a hard, dedicated worker, she gave and gave till the very end. She was delighted that she was going to be celebrating birthdays in the three digits. “One thing I excel at is age,” she said with a laugh. She celebrated her 102nd birthday last August. May she rest in peace.

S. Rita Louise Huebner
S. Kathleen Karbowski

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