sister charlotte deken
February 3, 1920 – March 28, 2009
S. Charlotte Deken was a faithful daughter of St. Joseph and served God and God’s people in various communities where all learned to love and appreciate her.
She was born in St. Louis to Anthony and Adelheide Fleischmann Deken and baptized Loraine Charlotte. Hers was a loving Catholic family. Two of her three siblings entered religious life. Her brother entered the Franciscans and a younger sister, S. Marie de Montfort, followed her to the Sisters of St. Joseph. Loraine Charlotte entered the community in 1940, and received the habit and the name S. Mary Cornelius on March 19, 1941.
For most of her active life, approximately 40 years, S. Charlotte was either a teacher or an administrator in elementary schools throughout the province. She served in St. Louis, Peoria, Indianapolis, Denver, Waco and Keshena, Wis. She was both a wonderful teacher and an excellent administrator. While she was at Holy Angels School in Indianapolis, for example, S. Charlotte helped the children achieve in academics and in sports. The Drum and Bugle Corps was a credit to the school as well.
From Indianapolis, S. Charlotte served at Holy Name School in St. Louis. (1968 – 1974) After five years, some staff members suggested that possibly the school needed an African American principal to serve the predominantly African American enrollment. In her gracious way, she acquiesced, believing it would be better for the children and the school generally. Thus, from October 1973 until June 1974, S. Charlotte prepared Mrs. Alice Edwards, the school’s African American first grade teacher, to assume the administration of Holy Name School.
Keshena, Wis., was her next stop (1974 – 1980). There, she was well loved both as teacher and as administrator. She had a deep love of the people and seemed to choose to be with the poor whenever she could. She was surely a woman of prayer and community.
Gordon Keshena wrote the following tribute in the Menominee Tribal News at the time of the school’s closing: “For ninety-seven years, no one group gave more to preserve and protect our school than the . . .Sisters of St. Joseph. . .They were the glue, the tower of strength. . .They guided us through the three R’s until we mastered them.” He concludes: “The school will be used for other purposes, but the Sisters of St. Joseph will remain to teach religion and to visit those who call. . .we will always remember them.” S. Charlotte was the Sister of St. Joseph who had to lock the doors of the school for the last time, but she could not lock the people and their needs out of her heart.
From 1980 until her retirement to Nazareth Living Center in 2000, S. Charlotte gave herself to volunteering. She served as librarian part time at Sacred Heart School in Festus and visited the sick in their homes. Later she moved to St. Joseph Academy and volunteered for four years at Shriners Hospital.
Finally at age 80, she determined it was time to retire fully so she moved to Nazareth Living Center. She continued to do volunteer work, such as working at the switchboard, until she moved into McGovern Commons. With her gentle spirit, S. Charlotte was content at Nazareth and did not want to leave it for any hospital stay. She wanted to meet the Lord at home. That is exactly what happened on March 28. For her many years of selfless service, may she know God’s great unifying love in all its fullness.
S. Rita Louise Huebner
S. Kathleen Karbowski