Sister Genevieve Kunkel, a professed member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame for 78 years who was known for her spirit and positive attitude, died Wednesday at the age of 101 from complications after hip surgery.
Sister Genevieve was a participant in the "nun study," which has tracked more than 600 members of the School Sisters since 1986 to learn more about aging and
"My philosophy as a woman, a religious and a teacher has always been to be grateful for the past, enthusiastic about the present and confident about the future," she said in a chapter in the 2001 book on the effect of happiness and gratitude on longevity.
An example of someone who retained her cognitive skills late into her life, Sister Genevieve appeared on national television with epidemiologist Dr. David Snowdon, who began the study of nuns and aging, and in 2004, she testified before Congress in support of funding for Alzheimer's research.
Genevieve Louise Kunkel was born Jan. 3, 1911, in Baltimore to Joseph Anthony and Dorothea Eva (Becker) Kunkel, the oldest of nine children. Her father and his brother founded Kunkel Pianos in 1905.
"She was devoted to her parents and her family," said Sister Frances Marie Usher, her friend for many years. "She would tell me stories about her family, about how her mother was in bed with a baby more than she was around the house.
"And she told me how her mother asked her father for a cook. She said, 'I need a cook. I want to go with you on your business trips and the babies are starting to come and I don't know that much about cooking anyway.'"
Sister Genevieve earned a bachelor's degree in English and history in 1932 from what is now Notre Dame of Maryland University and later that year entered the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Baltimore. All her sisters earned degrees there, a fact that made her immensely proud, Sister Frances recalled.
She was given the religious name Mary Nicholas after her brother, Nicholas, who was then preparing to become a Jesuit priest. "She had the most beautiful things to say about him," Sister Frances said.
She professed her first vows in August 1934 and her final vows in 1940, the same year she earned a master's degree in English from
Sister Genevieve, who resumed using her given name later in her career, went on to teach secondary school English, along with history, French and Spanish. She also coached debate teams.
During her long teaching career, she was assigned to St. Mary School of Bryantown; Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Mission Church High School) in
"She loved her years teaching English in Boston the most," Sister Frances said of the school where Sister Genevieve taught for 19 years. "And she could still quote from all the things she taught during those years."
In 1961, she became director of sister education and supervisor of secondary schools for the Baltimore Province of her congregation, based at the
In 1990, at age 79, Sister Genevieve moved to Villa Assumpta, home to retired sisters, in
Sister Genevieve died Wednesday at
She is survived by two sisters, Irene Froehlich of
A memorial Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Sept. 29 in the chapel at Villa Assumpta.