Carol and Rosie: A forever friendship
Some connections last a lifetime. Carol Hardy was able to make one of these lifelong connections with her third and fourth grade teacher, Sister Rose Helene Miller. The two kept in touch for 61 years until Sister Rosie’s passing in January 2017.
Carol first met Sister Rosie at St. Joseph’s in Milwaukee in 1956 and 1957, and remembers her as a great and athletic teacher who cared deeply about the students and wanted to be involved with the students.
“She loved to be outdoors. Even in the middle of winter, she was one of the only teachers who would go out at recess with us,” said Carol. “She would jump rope with the girls and play soccer with the boys. And that was even while wearing her habit!”
Carol transferred schools and moved to the South Side of Milwaukee; however, her parents kept in touch with Sister Rosie with phone calls and a newsletter every Christmas. Sister Rosie sent out the newsletters once a year to let her friends know where she was teaching and to share stories of her students.
The first contact Carol remembers having on her own with Sister Rosie was in high school when they began writing letters back and forth. Sister Rosie even came to her first wedding in 1969 and said grace at the reception.
As Carol left Milwaukee for opportunities in Chicago, Phoenix and Florida, she continued to write to Sister Rosie who moved around Wisconsin and to Indiana.
“We fell out of touch off and on over the years,” Carol remembers. “We would lose contact for a bit when she would receive a new mission, but after she would settle in her ministry, I would receive another letter.”
With email and Facebook, contact became easier and the two friends were able to stay in touch more easily. Carol also made yearly trips to Milwaukee and would take Sister Rosie to lunch or dinner each visit. More recently, she had been visiting twice a year and calling more frequently.
“We became really close in the last six years,” explained Carol. “She loved nature and the outdoors, so I would send her flowers on her birthday and at Christmas. She would put the flowers in the chapel so other sisters could enjoy them, too. She would also always talk about her garden and tomato plants.”
Sister Rosie was well-known for her tomato plants, as she grew bushels and would give them away to soup kitchens and poorer members of the community. Carol said she was most proud of all the colors and varieties she was able to grow and would talk about her tomatoes for hours.
When the work became “too backbreaking,” Sister Rosie turned over the garden to another sister. Carol called more frequently as Sister Rosie’s health declined, and she spoke to her nurse a few hours before she passed. Carol said she’ll always think of Sister Rosie when she sees a butterfly: “I think of her whenever I see anything really pretty and lovely in nature, but she was partial to butterflies. I think of her when I see one, and wonder if maybe that is her reincarnated to watch over me.”
Photos submitted by Carol Hardy.