Seventy-five years ago, Sister Gertrude Niehoff became a School Sister of St. Francis, keeping her baptismal name as a religious. The buildings surrounding the Motherhouse were very familiar to Gertrude, since her mother worked at Sacred Heart.
Her education included a degree as a dietician from Mount Mary College in Milwaukee and a therapist dietician certificate from Good Samaritan Hospital in Ohio. Sister was one of our first dieticians because the School Sisters were opening hospitals at the time and needed certified dieticians to establish that ministry.
This background took her to Sacred Heart Sanitarium for 12 years; St. Joe’s Hospital in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, when we owned that facility; and several hospitals in Milwaukee. Her ministry also included ministering to the sick sisters in the Motherhouse.
Sister also ministered in school lunch programs, and offered home care for the elderly and handicapped from 1978 to 2003. This included caring for her aunt in her home.
Sister Gertrude recalled one very life-giving experience she had that involved caring for a gentleman named George Barr, who was known as “Buddy.” Buddy was from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, and was a maintenance man at our powerhouse on our campus. When Buddy retired, he became blind. Sister Gertrude cared for him and occasionally took him to Holy Hill to visit Sisters Elaine Weber and Mary Louise Miller. He enjoyed visiting with them because he knew them from their time at the Motherhouse when they worked there as the administrator and sister coordinator, respectively.
In her retirement, Sister Gertrude helped sisters with their packing as they prepared to leave Campbellsport when it closed. She was a driver, who carried out her duties with a warm smile. Sister Gertrude is known as a hard worker, quiet in her presence, but always willing to go where the community sent her and where she was needed.
As a retired sister at Sacred Heart, she built relationships, especially with Sisters Gretta Schmitz and Dativa Balleweg by being present to their needs. For fun, she never misses the 2 o’clock movies on Sunday afternoons. Sister Gertrude takes things as they are and is very happy to be a School Sister. We are happy you are one of us, too, Sister! Congratulations!
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