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Published: Sunday, 10/1/2006

Nun's love of words motivated students

Sister Rita Mary Trudeau, 83, a longtime high school journalism teacher, died Wednesday in the Sisters of Notre Dame's Provincial Health Care Center from complications of Parkinson's disease.

She taught until 1995. Her assignments included Notre Dame Academy, Toledo; St. Joseph High School, Fremont; St. Wendelin High School, Fostoria, and St. John High School, Delphos.

She taught news writing, page layout, and photojournalism and was adviser to high school yearbooks and newspapers.

"You're teaching young people to reach out beyond themselves and to become aware of what is going on around them," said Sister Mary Patricia Snyder, a colleague. "When you come to the end of a year or two years and you see the competence of young people and you see [them] growing in that knowledge, that in itself is a great satisfaction."

Kathryn Coy, Sister Rita Mary's niece, said: "Words were her love. She loved writing and loved teaching. She bonded with many of her students over the years."

Sister Rita Mary, a Toledo native, entered the Notre Dame community in 1940 and made her first vows in 1943, when she received the name Sister Mary Bernardus. She had a bachelor's degree from the former Mary Manse College, Toledo, and a master's degree from the University of Notre Dame.

Until 1953, she taught in elementary schools. From 1978 to 1985, she was associate director in the Diocese of Toledo's missions office and spent time at missions in Haiti.

During visits to the Lucas County jail and women's shelters, she taught residents to pray, her niece said.

"You could always talk frankly in her company," her niece said. "She had an uncanny humor. I don't think most people would think of nuns as funny. Sister Rita Mary was funny. She had a dry sense of humor that would sneak up on you."

She was the last survivor of Joseph and Christina Trudeau's seven children.

Visitation will be from 2 p.m. tomorrow until prayers at 7 p.m. in the Sisters of Notre Dame's Provincial Center.

Visitation resumes Tuesday until funeral services at 5 p.m. Arrangements are by the Abele Funeral Home.

Tributes to the Sisters of Notre Dame are suggested.

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