Born to Life
March 28, 1921
June 13, 1939
Born to Eternal Life
January 1, 2023
Mt. Olivet Cemetery
Rose was born on March 28, 1921, to Josephine and Cyril Knotek in Racine, Wisconsin. She was their seventh child and always liked to remark that she had three older sisters and three younger sisters, as well as three older brothers and three younger brothers. Two of her older brothers became priests and two of her younger sisters became School Sisters of St. Francis – Sister Helen and Sister Julie, who are both deceased. Her parents had fled from Czechoslovakia in the early 1900s with her two oldest siblings to escape persecution, and they settled in Wisconsin.
After attending St. Catherine High School in Racine for two years, Rose entered the School Sisters of St. Francis. She was received in 1939 and given the name Sister Theonita. She received her bachelor’s degree in Education from Alverno College and began a long career teaching young children in Iowa, Illinois, and mostly in Wisconsin. She was asked by Alverno College to serve as a critic teacher to prepare other young sisters as teachers. In the 1950s, Rose was part of a team who wrote religious teaching books for the very young in Milwaukee Archdiocesan schools.
Always interested in sewing, she worked feverishly during the years when we had weeklong fall festivals by dressing hundreds of small dolls and engaging others to help. That led to an interest in sewing for people. In the late 1960s, Rose began teaching teenagers and young mothers in Milwaukee’s inner city during the summer months. Several of us helped her collect manual sewing machines, fabric, and other sewing supplies from Milwaukee parishioners and hauling it all to St. Elizabeth Parish (now Harambee). That project led her to a desire to teach full time in inner-city schools while continuing the sewing projects after school and on weekends.
After Rose retired in 1996, she continued tutoring children in her home until she moved to Clement Manor apartments in 2004, and finally to Sacred Heart in 2011. She still helped with sewing projects as long as she was able, but finally age and mobility problems made that too difficult.
It is impossible to count how many children Rose inspired while teaching, as well as the many sisters, parents and other friends she encountered in her 100 plus years of life. She used to keep track of the number of slacks she shortened! I am sure that is all recorded, and she is now being rewarded for all of her ministries.
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