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Riley's Ramblings - Remembering Sister Anna Margaret
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February 06, 2012

Remembering Sister Anna Margaret
In the early morning hours of January 16, Sister Anna Margaret Gilbride slipped quietly from this world and into the loving embrace of the God whom she had served so well for 85 years. Among those who were with her at the time of her death were Sister Diana Stano and Sister Anne Marie Diederich. Both of them have been presidents of Ursuline College and had Sister Anna Margaret as their loyal assistant during her 40 years of service to the College. The two Sisters were with her for many days, several times throughout the night, after Sister had suffered a devastating stroke. They were joined during that week of vigil by many Ursuline Sisters, her nieces and nephews and members of the College Community. This constant stream of people who came to pray, to sing, to reminisce and to say good bye was a clear witness to everyone how much Sister Anna Margaret was loved. Her funeral also brought together so many people whose lives she touched and it was a great tribute to a life well-lived.

One of the true blessings in my life is that, since I came to Ursuline in 2005 as the Director of Development, Sister and I spent hundreds of hours together. During those years, I mentally collected a number of Sister Anna Margaret’s “sayings,” which I would like to share with you in this blog. Every morning she would come to our offices and give us something to read or to talk about events in our lives or the previous night’s Indians game. She was back at 10:00 AM for a coffee break and later our group had lunch together. I would often pick up a loaf of artisan bread and we would hear one of her “sayings”, “there’s nothing like a good piece of bread.”

Part of Sister’s ministry, one she took quite seriously, was attending the wakes and funerals of alumnae, their families and friends of the College. Whenever this diminutive nun, in her veil with her ever-present smile, showed up at a funeral home or church, people knew that Ursuline College cared and was there. Kevin Gladstone, Sister Diana or I would drive Sister to these funerals and, often on the way home, we would stop for lunch. She had her favorite restaurants and her favorite menu items. There was Geraci’s where she loved garlic bread with cheese and, when returning from west-side funerals, Sokolowski’s University Inn in Tremont was her restaurant of choice where she always ordered salisbury steak and carrot cake for dessert. At the Red Lobster, coconut shrimp was her constant choice and wherever she could find it, she loved lobster bisque. She never ate the whole meal, but brought back half of it for lunch the next day. Another one of her “sayings” that we would hear at some of the restaurants was, “you could make a meal out of this appetizer.”

After attending a funeral and stopping for lunch, we would often get back to the College in the middle of the afternoon. Sister would get out of the car and announce, “this day is shot!” Later we had a photo of my daughter’s Saint Bernard puppy fast asleep. We framed it and put the words, “this day is shot” at the bottom of the photo. Sister had the picture on her desk in her office and we would often laugh at it.

Sister Anna Margaret’s office was in the middle of the hallway where the President’s Office and the Office for Institutional Advancement are located. Those of us in these offices are always multi-tasking and doing a number of projects at the same time. She would often express her concern for us, “I don’t know how you do it.” I once reminded her that it was not long ago that she was vice president of the College and a member of the general counsel of the Ursulines while she was writing her doctoral dissertation, all at the same time!

Sister Anna Margaret provided an invaluable service as a proof reader for all of us. Nothing from our offices was ever sent out unless it first was read and corrected by Sister. Commas, semi colons, the length of sentences, agreement of tenses and the content of the work were carefully scrutinized and a small, pencil dash in the margins meant that there was an error that needed to be addressed. After a while she adopted an expression from Sister Christine DeVinne (whose doctorate was in English) when dealing with a grammatical dilemma, “it could go either way.”

For the past 15 years, Sister’s major priority was the writing of the history of Ursuline College. Each day she pored over documents from the past in order to ensure that the history she was writing was factually true. She finished the history in November of this year and then went through the archives to select the photos she wanted in the book. She also selected the book’s title: “Length of Days”, a line she borrowed from Ursuline’s Alma Mater. Her work was done and she asked two of us from the College to see to its publication, which we are now in the process of doing. It had been our hope to have a gala publication party with Sister Anna Margaret signing copies of the book. That was our idea, but apparently not God’s. But she will be with us in spirit and in our hearts as we unveil the result of her many years of work.

Working with Sister Anna Margaret over the past seven years has truly been a blessing, an honor and a privilege and it was also great fun! Her smile and laugh were infectious. She cared deeply about those of us who worked with her and always asked about families. We miss her dearly.