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Macksey Karen

Sister Karen Macksey

April 12, 1926 - October 7, 2020   |   Passed On

When looking at the collection of pictures of Sister Karen, one can conclude that she never took a “bad one”. She smiled with her mouth but also with her eyes. More than one who knew her said there was also a hint of mischief.

Rose Margaret Macksey was born on April 12, 1926 in Oskaloosa, Iowa, to Thomas and Lena Tessmann Macksey.  She was baptized and made her first Holy Communion in St. Mary’s parish where the Sisters of Humility taught. From high school she went to Marycrest College from which she graduated with a degree in elementary education, specializing in kindergarten and primary grades, in 1948. 

Rose entered the Congregation of the Humility of Mary on September 8, of that same year, along with six (6) other women from various of the Marycrest classes.

She received the habit and her name in religion, Sister Mary Karen, the following summer. She was professed in 1951. She has surviving “classmates”, Srs. Joan Marie Schuster and Marian Smith. 

After profession Sr. Karen taught at St. Vincent in Davenport and St. Austin in Minneapolis for a year each before going to St. Mary’s in Ottumwa for four years. While at St. Vincent’s, a 2-way radio system was arranged for a student who had to miss school because of rheumatic fever. The system was so sensitive that he could hear pages being turned in the classroom. 

From St. Mary’s she moved across the river to St. Patrick’s in Ottumwa where she stayed for three years. Then she got to teach kindergarten back at St. Vincent’s for five years, during which the second Vatican Council met. Also, on her list of stops were St. Mary and John F. Kennedy schools in Davenport and St. Mary/St. Henry in Marshalltown. She was one of the founders of Holy Trinity School in the Davenport inner city, with campuses at the former St. Mary and St. Joseph parish schools. She cherished each child and encouraged them to learn. She continued there for 20 years, until retirement in 1996.

In her file there is a collection of farewell letters written to her by her last class. They include statements such as:

•     “Thanks for teaching me about sports. I didn’t know anything about them in first and second grades.”

•     “I could stay in your class forever.”

•     “You have mixed feelings now – you don’t have to worry. You have done your part.”

Sr. Karen’s quilt square depicts her ministry “tools” of blackboard, multiplication tables and spelling words. It is easy to find at the very top right, next to the fleur-de-lis on the corner. While living at Humility of Mary Center, when former residents at the St. Vincent orphanage would come back to visit, Sr. Karen would often be called on, and Sr. Camille when she was alive too.

Sr. Marian Smith remembers their other five (5) classmates from Marycrest in the novitiate: Srs. Margaret Maureen Carroll, Marilyn Kraus, Maria Luisa Marchello, Ana Maria Orozco, and Amata Yacksaw. In Sr. Karen’s file was the original list of items that the postulant was to bring with her including three (3) night dresses, black dresses with long sleeves, one table service consisting of tea and dessert spoon and knife and fork, and one pair of rubber boots. Sr. Marian Smith tells the story that, whenever Mother Mary Geraldine would come to the Heights to visit, she would ask to see the seven postulants. Unhappy at how drab they looked in their all-black outfits, Mother Geraldine brought “dickeys” for each of them on her next trip. 

Sr. Karen was the supervising teacher when Sr. Claudellen student taught at St. Mary’s in Ottumwa. At the evaluation at the end of the period, Sr. Muriel said that Sr. Claudellen needed to put more time into her preparation. Sr. Karen loudly protested, saying that Sr. Claudellen was one of the best teachers she had ever supervised. It was well known that sometimes Sr. Muriel might not be paying full attention when she observed in classrooms in the afternoons.

Sr. Karen cherished her family and enjoyed trips back to Oskaloosa to visit her sisters, Katherine and Lucy. She would like to go shopping when she returned. Her brother, Bob, lived in Davenport so they saw each other over the years. In Johnston it was nephew, John, who visited as Karen was the last of the nine Macksey siblings.

After moving to Bishop Drumm Retirement Center in 2016, Sr. Karen continued following sports, especially the Cubs. She continued in her ministry of prayer and witness and enjoyed special activities. The hospice music therapist was helpful in calming Sr. Karen during her last days and was with her when she died.

Sr. Karen was known to have special devotion to the community patron, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and had kept her “religious” name of Sr. Mary Karen. How appropriate, then, that she died on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. And this time she really was “Good to go”, a favorite response to “How are you?”

Sr. Mary Rehmann, CHM

Volunteer archivist

You can read Sr. Karen's obituary HERE...