On December 14, 1925, the fifth of eight children of Anna and Henry Weinbeck was born in Winsted, Minnesota. This cherished daughter was baptized Regina Cecilia.
A strong German atmosphere prevailed in the Weinbeck home. Out of respect for the grandparents, the German language was spoken when they were present. All eight children attended Holy Trinity Catholic elementary and high school and were taught by the School Sisters of St. Francis in the small town of Winsted.
The Depression years deeply affected the family and all were expected to help at home as well as to earn whatever they could to defray their high school tuition. Along with helping at home, Regina detasseled corn, babysat, and worked in a bakery and in the town’s telephone office. A strong work ethic was instilled in each family member very early in life. Family prayer and daily Mass were a definite part of their upbringing.
Already as a child Regina wanted to be a nurse and help the sick. She also thought about being a sister. Although she admired the sister teachers in school, she was unaware that you could be both a sister and a nurse. A Maryknoll magazine with a picture and vocation story about a sister nurse helped her put the two thoughts together.
Upon completing high school, her aunt, Sister Fortissa, accompanied her to St. Joseph Convent in Milwaukee. After the year of postulancy Regina was received into the community, receiving the name Sister Alexis.
During her second year of novitiate Sister Alexis began to follow her dream of becoming a nurse and earned her bachelor of science in nursing after three years of course work and nursing at Sacred Heart Sanitarium. She went on to pursue a masters degree in nursing and for the next ten years was appointed to teach and supervise the nursing students at Alverno College. After a short respite, Sister Alexis spent four years as the in-service director in a 400-bed hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota. Even though it was a challenge, it was a great experience. At the same time, she had the opportunity to reconnect with her family who for many years had seen her only a few times. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed all the visiting and comparing memories!
After returning to Milwaukee, Sister Alexis’ expertise was tapped by the Health Agency Council. She was asked to organize and direct a program for health education and wellness for the School Sisters of St. Francis and to serve on the governing boards of the community’s health institutions.
A unique opportunity happened in 1983 when Sister Alexis was granted a “year off” for an intercultural experience in Germany. She chose to spend the time doing volunteer home nursing in the town of Weinhein. While living with the sisters in Germany, she found the year to be an extremely enriching and valuable experience which she would treasure forever, especially the hospitality received in a foreign country.
Sister Alexis’ expertise was again challenged in 1993 when she was asked to begin a new position: nurse advocate for the sisters. She found this to be very enjoyable as it allowed her to apply many of the practices she had learned in her experience as a parish nurse. She was able to be a combination of nurse; patient escort; consultant with sisters, nurses and physicians; and do follow-up care for the sisters.
Sister Alexis found great satisfaction in this ministry as health advocate. She often said, “Now I realized that nursing is not merely doing things for others, but more so, being with them and supporting them with prayer and presence.”
In 2006, Sister Alexis was no longer able to be out and about, so it was easy for her to transition into retirement and volunteer ministry and she moved to St. Joseph Convent in Campbellsport.
Eight years later, with the closing of the convent in Campbellsport, Sister Alexis moved to Sacred Heart in Milwaukee to continue living and sharing with the sisters. Her final years continued to be filled with love and gratitude.
Sister Alexis, your warm, compassionate, and calming presence, along with your beautiful smile, will be missed. We are grateful for the life you so generously shared with us. Go now in peace, faithful friend of God.