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Sister Mary Florence Berres, 1912-2011: Ursuline nun taught, practiced home economics

Sister Mary Florence Berres, 99, a teacher who made the art and science of home economics her specialty, died Wednesday in the Ursuline Center.

She was in failing health much of the last year, said Sister Kathleen Padden, also of the Ursuline Sisters of Toledo.

She had been a model of vigor. She walked in the 2008 Nun Run, which included sisters from other communities. "This is fun. I just might sign up for a race," she told The Blade then.

For several years she and the Rev. Ric Saelzler, chaplain of the community, took daily walks around the Ursuline campus. Her hearing wasn't the best. He is blind.

"I needed a pair of eyes, and she needed a pair of ears," Father Saelzler said.

She didn't consider retirement part of her vows.

"She was a beautiful lady in terms of wanting to serve and keep on," he said. "She saw taking me for a walk as part of the deal, part of what God called her to do in this moment."

She was born Jan. 10, 1912, to Barbara and Frank Berres and was a member of St. John the Evangelist Church in Delphos, Ohio. She was a graduate of St. Ursula Academy in Toledo and entered the convent in 1931. She professed her final vows in 1936. She taught at St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John the Baptist, St. Teresa, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help schools in Toledo, St. Joseph and St. Mary schools in Tiffin, and Nazareth Hall in Grand Rapids, Ohio.

She had bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees from the former Mary Manse College.

She had a master of science degree in home economics from what was then Western Reserve University and took graduate courses at St. Louis University, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. From 1966 to 1977, she taught home economics to the young women at St. Ursula Academy.

"She was very adept at cooking and baking and sewing. She liked to teach other people to do it," Sister Kathleen said. Having worked in the Ursuline sisters' infirmary, she also taught caregiving skills to the high school girls.

After St. Ursula, she used her home economics skills as head of maintenance and food service for the Ursuline convent. In recent years, "she did the personal laundry of all the sisters and made sure it was well done," Sister Kathleen said. "She liked to be busy and liked to help people."

When she had evening telephone-answering duty for the convent, she gathered a group of sisters to play cards.

"She enjoyed the camaraderie of the sisters when she played cards with them or helped them with laundry or whatever they needed help for," Sister Kathleen said.

Surviving are her sister, Veronica Johns, and brother, George Berres.

Visitation is to begin at 3 p.m. Friday in the Ursuline Center on Indian Road, with a vigil service at 7 p.m. Friday in the center chapel. Her funeral is to be at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in the chapel. Arrangements are by Coyle Funeral Home.

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

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.

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