Sister Ellinda was a force to be reckoned with, even in her 90s when I first had the privilege of getting to know her. She offered to proofread and edit several of my manuscripts and utterly amazed me by her performance. Her gifts of detail, of questioning, listening, accuracy, and wisdom all came to the fore. I will certainly miss you, Ellinda.
Our archival records indicate she was born in Chicago, Illinois, June 18, 1924 to Gustav Leichtfeld and Ella Therese Moran. She was baptized in Our Lady of Victory Parish in Chicago and was given the name Laverne. She attended Our Lady of Victory elementary school where sisters taught. Because her home was located nearer to Providence High School, she chose to go there instead of our Alvernia High School where most of her friends went. However, her friends kept her well informed about Alvernia and the sisters who taught there.
Laverne was magnetically drawn to our community and entered in 1944 and was received in 1945. This year Ellinda was to celebrate her 75th Jubilee.
[Sister Barbaralie shared these words of remembrance from Sister Ellinda’s niece, Karen.]
“Thank you for the opportunity to remotely share some memories of my Auntie Linda. I hope they make you smile as much as she made me smile.
“She and my father, Don, were raised in the same house together in Chicago. Their mothers were sisters and when Ellinda’s parents divorced, she and her mother Ella moved in with Ella’s mother and my dad’s parents.
“My dad was born when Ellinda was seven years old and she immediately became more of a sister than a cousin to him. Therefore, my Auntie Linda was a terrific source of childhood tales about my dad. What kid doesn’t like to hear first-hand account stories about their own parent being a “pesky little brother” figure?
“It always amused me when she and my dad got together as adults and they would fall easily and quickly back into the roles of big sister and younger brother:
‘Don, put that can down! You can’t drink a beer in my car!’
‘Ellinda, turn left here, it’s a shortcut to the restaurant!’
‘Don’t you tell me how to drive, mister! You haven’t been out here in years!’
One could easily think they were listening to two teenaged siblings and not grown adults in their mid-70s!
“My grandparents eventually moved to St. Pete Beach, Florida, to a home directly on Boca Ciega Bay. Ellinda would regularly make round trips to visit them with Sister Hughie and other sisters as well. Her dogs loved the trip, too. She would tell me how they would start barking madly when the car crossed the last big bridge. They knew they were close to their favorite vacation spot. The Florida neighbors would tell me how fun it was to watch several nuns in full habit attire go in the front door of the house and come out the back door in bathing suits and jump right off the dock into the water!
“My Auntie Linda was overjoyed when I arrived in the world. When I was born, she flew to Maryland and stayed with my parents for a visit. She wanted to give me my first bath. And she did! She was my Confirmation sponsor and came out for the celebration. I chose the name Francis in her honor. She would refer to me as ‘Our Karen’ and kept a ‘Karen Photo Album’ while I was growing up. She gave this album to me several years ago and it is one that I will cherish always.
“When I was in fifth grade, I took my first solo plane trip and went to Milwaukee to visit her and Sister Hughie for Thanksgiving. She spoiled me rotten. We went to the Ground Round and got to throw peanut shells on the restaurant floor and went swimming in her friend Dr. Landis’ indoor, underground, heated pool. On Thanksgiving she let me drink Cold Duck, which at the time I did not realize was the non-alcoholic version of the wine. She even pierced my ears herself. To me she was certainly the coolest aunt and by far the coolest nun out there!
“As long as I can remember, she drove a Cadillac. During the ’70s and ’80s she had a CB radio in her car and her CB handle was ‘Lindy Lou.’ She said the truckers would never believe her when she told them that she was a nun.
“She was the first in our family to go to college. She was a gourmet cook. She was an ‘Avon Lady.’ She taught her dogs to go to the potty in a grassy, cardboard box indoors. She sent the most beautiful birthday cards. She was great friends with high profile international doctors, bishops, and archbishops. She always had a cold beer or bottle of wine in her fridge for a thirsty guest. She was so mentally sharp that she could easily pass for someone 20 years younger. Her hair always looked perfect.
“When I became pregnant with my first child, I told her the good news before I even told my parents. She was very happy and supportive and when my daughter, Dallan, was born, Ellinda called her ‘Our Dallan.’ They, too, shared a special bond: Dallan was born on June 18, Ellinda’s birthday. When I came to visit her at Maria Linden with Dallan when she was just three months old, everyone in the building knew exactly who we were without us even having to be introduced. ‘Oh, you must be Ellinda’s new grandniece!’ is what we kept hearing as we walked down the halls.
“Auntie Linda was as proud of her growing family as we were of her. When my daughter was two and I was pregnant with my son, we came back for another visit. Dallan would sit on Ellinda’s lap and they would zoom down the halls in her electric scooter and out on the paths in the garden. One of them even spent some time zooming down the halls in her birthday suit, much to the chagrin and amusement of the other.
“When I told my daughter, who is now four, that Auntie Linda had passed away she immediately replied, ‘I know you’re sad, Mommy, but now she’ll be able to be with Grandpa Don again.’ And she is right. I know right now there is a huge, happy, heavenly reunion happening. She is with her beloved Sister Hughie and all her dogs: Heidi, Honey Bunch, Cinderella, Dolly, and Buffy.
“She’s insisting to my dad that she didn’t push him off his tricycle -- he merely fell. She is reuniting with family and friends with warm welcomes. She is home. And she will be tremendously missed until we can zoom down the halls of heaven, together again with our amazing Auntie Linda.”
[Sister Barbaralie added these closing remarks.]
I’d just like to add a few comments at the end here. I looked upon Ellinda having an inexhaustible fountain of inner strength and dignity. Even in the last weeks when she was so frail, she had a sharp mind fueled by self-determination. An educated heart, a mind that was kept humane by the voice of compassion, and a heart that beat to the call of a disciplined mind. And I often wondered “What was the source of inner strength?” I am convinced it was the Eucharist. Every day, this woman appeared in this chapel for the Eucharistic celebration. I am sure we all remember her scooting up this aisle to receive Communion. And I think that was her source. In fact, I know it was.
If I could sum up in a few phrases who this woman really was, and even sum up what Karen had just said, “Thinking the highest. Feeling the deepest. Doing the best and doing what was necessary.” This was the lodestone of her life.