Sister Michelle Gillespie, 1934-2012: Teacher, principal served at St. Vincent


Sister Michelle Gillespie, who ministered in education and hospital pastoral care with the Sylvania Sisters of St. Francis, died Wednesday in Rosary Care Center, Sylvania.

She was 78 and was in ill health.

For about 12 years, Sister Michelle was a chaplain at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center. She comforted patients — and their families — on all units, particularly in neonatal intensive care.

“She was very good at giving grief counseling to mothers and dads,” said Elaine Ladd, administrative director of pastoral care at Mercy St. Vincent.

Sister Michelle also brought a well-honed sense of fun to her work. She decorated and dressed up for Christmas, Halloween, and St. Patrick's Day, when she baked Irish soda bread from a family recipe. “She made everything lively,” Ms. Ladd said.

Sister Geraldine Nowak said: “Sister Michelle was very gracious and loved to offer hospitality... She was a person with flair.”

She was born Elizabeth Gillespie on May 3, 1934, in Detroit to Agnes and Charles Gillespie. She professed her first vows with the Sylvania Franciscans in August, 1955, and her final vows in August, 1958.

Early on she worked in hospital business offices. She taught in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan and in Minneapolis and St. Paul. She was a principal in Port Clinton, Toledo, and Steubenville. She was secretary to the leadership of her Sylvania Franciscan community.

“She just had a great rapport with people,” Sister Geraldine said.

She liked to travel, particularly trips to Topinabee, Mich., on Mullett Lake in the northern Lower Peninsula, with Sister Ruth Schirtzinger, a longtime friend.

Surviving are her sisters, Margaret Kohler, Mildred Salter, and Carol Gillespie.

Services will be at 4 p.m. Tuesday in Our Lady Queen of Peace Chapel at the Sisters of St. Francis Motherhouse in Sylvania, where visitation is 6-8 p.m. Monday and on Tuesday before the funeral. Arrangements are by the Thomas I. Wisniewski Funeral Home.

Tributes are to the Sisters of St. Francis, Sylvania.