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Published: Saturday, 10/1/2005

Ursuline sister was teacher, principal at several schools

Sister Joan of Arc Distel, 84, a teacher in Roman Catholic Diocese of Toledo schools who inspired her students to learn, died yesterday in the Ursuline Center from complications of Alzheimer's disease.

She retired in 2000 from Our Lady of Perpetual Help School, where she'd taught and tutored.

Teaching assignments took her to Rosary Cathedral, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Agnes, St. Teresa, and St. Charles schools in Toledo, St. Rose School in Perrysburg, and Nazareth Hall near Grand Rapids, Ohio. She also taught at St. Joseph and St. Mary in Tiffin. She taught and was principal at St. John the Baptist and St. Patrick of Heatherdowns schools in Toledo.

"She was a teacher who could get her children to do anything," Ursuline Sister Kathleen Padden said. "She could take the roughest boys and, within a week, they'd be dressed [in] a shirt and tie. She loved them and would build them up and make them feel they were somebody."

She was reminded often that her efforts yielded results.

"So many boys she taught kept in touch with her," said her sister, Sister St. Martin Distel, also of the Ursuline community.

Sister Joan of Arc grew up near Tiffin, entered the Ursuline Community in 1939, and made her final profession of vows in 1945. She received bachelor of arts and science degrees from the former Mary Manse College. From Catholic University of America, she received a master of education degree in the teaching of exceptional children.

She became a Detroit Tigers fan in her youth, and remained loyal for decades. She once wrote that she wanted to be the first woman manager of a professional baseball team but added that she knew "the church wouldn't understand that kind of a ministry," Sister Kathleen recalled.

Surviving are her sisters, Henrietta Smyser, Dorothy Dickson, Agnes Zeiger, and Sister St. Martin Distel, and brothers, Robert, James, Richard, and John.

Visitation will begin at 2 p.m. tomorrow in the Ursuline Center, followed by vigil services at 7 p.m. tomorrow. Funeral services will be at 10:30 a.m. Monday in the Ursuline Center.

Tributes are suggested to the Ursuline Convent of the Sacred Heart.

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