Born to Life
November 21, 1941
June 13, 1961
Born to Eternal Life
December 10, 2022
St. Luke's Medical Center
Mt. Olivet Cemetery
Who is a valiant woman?
Proverbs Chapter 31 describes a valiant woman as one who is clothed with strength and laughs at the days to come.
Sister Julia Marie, a valiant woman for sure, began her earthly life on November 21, 1941, one of two daughters of Edward and Marguerite Kress in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 1960, she graduated from Pius XI High School and submitted her application to enter the School Sisters of St. Francis, where Mary Ellen Kress became Sister Julia Marie.
After working for the Seraphic Press in the Motherhouse, her first mission was at St. Joseph High School Convent in Kenosha as a homemaker. While serving there in 1965, she was going home for the Christmas holidays because her sister had recently died. As she was getting off the bus, she was hit by a car. Apparently the driver was negotiating construction signs and did not see her in her black mantle on a rainy day. Imagine the horror of her father who was waiting to pick her up, as he witnessed the possible death of his second daughter. Sister Julia Marie was taken to Waukesha Memorial Hospital in critical condition, suffering from multiple fractures and internal injuries. Fortunately, she survived through a four-month recovery and was released from the hospital in April 1966.
Though limited in her mobility, she struggled to make her contribution as a homemaker from her wheelchair, serving at St. Albert’s in Milwaukee, and in the convent of her alma mater, Pius XI, from 1970-71. Those were her last years as a homemaker, as she enrolled at Milwaukee Area Technical College, and then Madison Area Technical College, where she earned a certificate as an Occupational Therapy Assistant in 1972. It was in this area that she used her skills in craft work, including making many stuffed animal toys.
Reading was a great pastime for her. She said “It takes me all over.” Sister Julie also loved to travel, either virtually or for real. When actual travel was possible, she accompanied another homemaker, Sister Eliana Weisman, to Germany a couple of times. Sister Eliana lived with Sister Julia until Sister Eliana’s death in 1984. Sister also enjoyed flowers, especially caring for them. She watered many plants at Sacred Heart. Amaryllises and orchids were her favorites.
After several years working in various nursing homes, she moved to the School Sisters’ facility known as Maryhill Retirement Center. She was the Activities Director there until 1995.
After many corrective surgeries due to her initial injuries, a leg had to be amputated because of recurring infections. Through all of this, Sister Julia exemplified acceptance of her reality and was open to new things. No matter how physically limited she was, she made her world larger through listening to current events, visiting with her classmates and sharing Jimmy John’s sandwiches with Sister Agnes Marie Henkel at Sacred Heart.
She was a woman of strength and courage as she continued amidst all her challenges, to make a contribution by reading to sisters with limited eyesight and being a support to Sister Joan Egan after Sister Joan’s car accident. One classmate commented that in spite of her health condition, she was always cheerful, never down. She was quiet, but pleasant. She didn’t laugh at the days to come, but always was a realist and present to the moment.
At her 60th Jubilee in 2021, her classmates called her a role model for doing as much as she could, in spite of her physical condition. Sister Julia, your pain and suffering are over. May you enjoy the rewards of a valiant woman.