Sister June Does remembered for community contributions
By Janelle Walker For The Courier-News August 13, 2012 11:42AM
Sister June Does at her 85th birthday/retirement party at Provena Saint Joseph Hospital in Elgin last year. | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 15, 2012 6:09AM
ELGIN — While being honored on her 85th birthday last year at Provena Saint Joseph Hospital, Sister June Does said that age was a state of mind.
“If you have a positive attitude and be willing to give of yourself, you will have a good life,” Does said at the Nov. 30 party.
Following that good life — which was an example of positive attitude and a willingness to serve — Does died on Aug. 3.
A memorial service for the well-known Franciscan nun was scheduled for Tuesday.
Following a 60-plus year career at hospitals throughout the country, Does retired from Provena on July 1, 2011, and relocated to the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart Motherhouse in Frankfort. She was living there at the time of her death.
Those who knew and worked with Does — both professionally and as a volunteer — said her positive attitude and willingness to serve was a hallmark of the nun’s life.
“She had a very good life,” said Gretchen Vapnar, director of the Community Crisis Center in Elgin. “She was dedicated to her service in her order, to her hospital, and in the community.”
Does served on the clinic committee when the crisis center took over a community clinic. That clinic eventually became the Greater Elgin Family Care Center, Vapnar said.
As a Catholic nun, the fact that Does was a full-fledged member of the Elgin Hadassah — the Women’s Zionist Organization of America chapter — “demonstrates her open mind and her commitment to the community,” Vapnar said. “She was an amazing person.”
Humor and prayer
Her commitment to women in the community “was Sister June,” said Pat Szpekowski, who had known and worked with Does for the past 15 years after Does joined the Altrusa Elgin community service organization in 1997. “She was such a joy.”
“Sister June always enjoyed being a member — it took her outside of her hospital work and into community work,” Szpekowski said.
She was known for performing the invocation prayer at the annual Altrusa Woman of the Year dinner. “She always had a way of giving a prayer and saying grace, but always having something humorous but prayerful to say,” she added.
Does was always willing to pitch in and work, and was a staple at their monthly meetings and fundraisers, too, Szpekowski said.
“She thrived on being involved and helping others her whole life. When she transitioned to fund development at St. Joe’s, she really went out into the community then, and she loved it,” Szpekowski said. “She blossomed and was able to meet and touch a lot of people.”
Does’ membership and work was so appreciated that when she left Elgin for the Frankfort mother house, the Elgin Altrusa club was able to get Does her own emeritus status with the national organization, Szpekowski added.
The Rev. Ed Hunter, one of the Provena Saint Joseph chaplains, said Does’ secret to success was her ability to match those in need — be in physical or financial — with someone who could help, and often anonymously.
“She was creative in her attempts to meet other people’s needs. She would be a conduit for people,” he said.
“She really saw no boundaries with people, that everyone was the same,” said Rhonda Huber, executive director of the Provena Saint Joseph Foundation. “She accepted people for who they were and loved people.”
As a Franciscan nun, Does also took a vow of poverty. When people would give her money — $20 here or $50 there for her birthday, Does would turn around and give that money to people in need, Huber said.
“When she was talking to philanthropists about giving back, she did the same,” Huber said.
Professionally, Does was known as a energetic fundraiser for the hospital. At her November birthday party, Dr. Eugene McMahon, hospital president, said Does helped raise $17 million for the hospital, including $3 million for the heart and vascular center and the hospital’s entire cardiac program; $6.6 million for the cancer center; and another $1.9 million for other expansion and modernization projects.
In 1994, she implemented a “casual Friday” at the hospital, where employees could wear jeans or business casual dress in exchange for a $2 donation. Casual Fridays have since raised $126,000, officials at the hospital said.
Then, six years ago, she and a hospital donor spoke about her idea for an endowment fund that would provide mini-grants and scholarship funds for the hospital nursing staff. The donor started the pot with $5,000. The Sister June Does Endowment had $600,000 as of Dec. 1, McMahon said.
Three nurses received the first mini-grants from that endowment during Does’ birthday party. Each grant was designed to help pay for programs to aid patients, Huber said.
Does’ ministry as a Franciscan nun began nearly 62 years ago. She entered postulancy on Sept. 8, 1950, at the age of 23; made her First Profession of Vows on June 21, 1953; and her Final Vows on June 21, 1956.
Does became certified in radiologic technology and later earned a bachelor’s degree in radiologic technology from St. Louis University in St. Louis. She worked as an X-ray technician at St. Mary Hospital in LaSalle, St. Joseph in Elgin, and St. Anthony Hospital in Chicago. She then became an administrative assistant at St. Joseph Hospital in San Francisco, Calif.; then Queen of Angels Clinic and Hospital in Los Angeles; and finally back to Elgin.
After her first retirement, Does became the fund development executive at Provena Saint Joseph.
The memorial service will be held at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at the hospital.
Memorials can be made to the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart, 9201 W. St. Francis Road, Frankfort, IL 60423-8330; or the Sister June Does Endowment Fund, c/o Foundation Department, Provena Saint Joseph Hospital, 77 N. Airlite St., Elgin, IL 60123.