Sr. Mary Jamesita Keller, BVM, (1935-2016) had a passion for reading, never gave up on a student

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Sr. Mary Jamesita Keller, BVM

sr-mary-jamesita-keller-webBorn: Dec. 5, 1935 in Joliet, Ill.
First Vows: March 19, 1956
First Vows: July 16, 1961
Died: Aug. 15, 2016

Service in the Diocese of Phoenix
1974-82: Teacher at Agnes School
1982-87: Teacher at Paradise Valley Preschool
1987-92: Substitute teacher in the Diocese of Phoenix
1992-2001: Teacher and tutor at St. Theresa School

Memorials: Sisters of Charity, BVM Support Fund, 1100 Carmel Dr., Dubuque, Iowa, 52003

DUBUQUE, Iowa — Sr. Mary Jamesita Keller, BVM, 80, died Aug. 15, 2016, at Marian Hall in Dubuque. She was buried at Mount Carmel Cemetery, Dubuque.

In the Diocese of Phoenix, Sr. Jamesita taught elementary school at St. Agnes School; was an early childhood teacher at Paradise Valley Preschool; was substitute teacher for the Diocese of Phoenix and substitute teacher and reading tutor at St. Theresa School. While at St. Agnes, Jamesita was selected as a finalist for the 1977 Arizona Teacher of the Year, the only sister in Arizona to ever receive this award.

Isabelle McCann, who’s daughter was one of Sr. Jamesita’s students at St. Agnes in the late ‘70s, recalls how welcoming she was.

“She’d be out to greet the kids as they came in,” recalled McCann. “She would push reading and she loved nature and always made you feel good about yourself. You could be having the worst day and she’d make you feel better.”

While teaching at St. Theresa, Sr. Jamesita had a room called the “I Can” Room, where she’d help students learn how to read, recalls Colleen Enger, who taught seventh and eighth grade at St. Theresa for 15 years.

“I always kept up with Sr. Jamesita because she was such a remarkable teacher,” recalled Enger. “She never gave up on a kid. She was a wonderful example to all teachers never to give up on students.”

She was born Donna Kathryn Keller in Joliet, Illinois, on Dec. 5, 1935, to Stephen Harry and Kathryn Elizabeth (Donahue) Keller. She entered the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary congregation Feb. 7, 1954, and professed first vows on March 19, 1956, and final vows on July 16, 1961.

She also taught in Chicago, Rock Island and Round Lake, Illinois.

Enger had a chance to visit Sr. Jamesita a month before she passed away when Enger and her husband drove through Dubuque. Even though she was frail, Enger said, she wanted to go out with her friends.

“She knew her health was failing,” Enger said. “She offered her suffering for those who were suffering more than she was.”

She was preceded in death by her parents. She is survived by a brother, James, of Gurnee, Illinois; cousins; and the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with whom she shared life for 62 years.

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