Sister Mary Annunciata Sutter, 87, who touched the lives of thousands of students during her career as an elementary school teacher, died Monday in the Ursuline Center in Toledo.
The cause of death is not yet known, said her friend Sister Mary Patricia Snyder.
Born near Bethlehem, Ohio, in 1923, Estella Sutter loved the land, particularly the farm where she grew up doing chores alongside her four brothers and a sister, but she was drawn to the classroom. From an early age, she would offer to assist her teachers with after-school tasks and would help out on Saturdays whenever possible.
"She always wanted to be a teacher. She just loved working with children. She was an excellent teacher, a model teacher. Her students remembered her. She had a big heart for kids. She was able to relate to them very well. She had a keen sense of justice and fairness," Sister Mary Patricia said.
Sister Mary Patricia described her friend as dedicated and service-oriented. But possibly above all else, Sister Mary Annunciata was treasured as a wonderful teacher and a remarkable administrator, long remembered by many students and staff members.
She wasn't one to sit around waiting to be given directions. "She was a person who saw a thing to do and did it. She never had to be told what to do," her friend said.
After entering the community of the Sisters of Notre Dame in 1941, where she received the name Sister Mary Annunciata, she pursued degrees in education from the former DeSales and Mary Manse colleges in Toledo and from the Catholic University of America in Washington.
During her 45-year career in elementary education she served as a teacher and/or principal at several schools, including St. Paul, Norwalk, Ohio; St. Mary, Sandusky; St. John's, Delphos; St. Jude, Fort Wayne, Ind.; St. Joseph, Monroeville, Ohio, and St. Ann, St. Mary, Holy Rosary, Ladyfield, and Mary Immaculate, all in Toledo.
A nephew, Msgr. Michael Hohenbrink of Findlay, said his aunt would tell stories of how she would walk a mile from her home to Sacred Heart School, a two-room wood frame building near Shelby, Ohio, where Notre Dame Sisters taught.
In the winter, her father would hook up the horse and sleigh and off they would go through the snow to school.
The school she attended is the oldest Catholic school in Ohio, said her nephew, who also attended the school. Estella was a member of Shelby Settlement (Bethlehem) Sacred Heart Church, a little country parish, he said.
When she was principal at St. John's in Delphos, there were about 2,000 children in first through eighth grades, and "the remarkable thing, she knew every kid," said her nephew, who would visit his aunt at St. John's and also when she was principal of St. Mary in Sandusky. "She was known as a very good school administrator. She was a very good organizer."
She later was principal of St. Paul High School in Norwalk, he said, and worked for a couple of years at Notre Dame Academy.
Sister Mary Annunciata liked gardening, but she loved baseball. "She really was a rabid Cleveland Indians' baseball fan. She followed them all over the place. She knew all the players," Monsignor Hohenbrink said, noting that she would "win over the junior high kids by chatting with them about baseball." She grew up in a family filled with Indians fans, he said.
She didn't trek to the games, but listened on the radio to the play-by-plays, he said.
After she retired, she worked part time in schools as an aide, assisting wherever she could.
"She was always an asset wherever she went," said Sister Mary Patricia.
In 1996, Sister Mary Annunciata was inducted into St. Mary's Hall of Fame at St. Mary's School in Toledo. "That was a great honor for her," Sister Mary Patricia said. The school has closed since then.
Sister Mary Annunciata is survived by her brother, Edgar.
Visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at the Provincial Center on Secor Road, with Sharing of Memories beginning at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
The funeral liturgy will be celebrated at 5 p.m. Wednesday in the Convent Chapel.
Arrangements are made by Urbanski Funeral Home. Tributes can be made to the Sisters of Notre Dame.