Singing Nun of 1960s, Friend Commit Suicide

From Times Wire Services

The Singing Nun of the 1960s, who became world-famous with her hit “Dominique,” has committed suicide, police said Monday.

Officers said they found the body of Jeanine Deckers and that of an unidentified female friend over the weekend after receiving a telephone call from neighbors near the home they shared. The Associated Press quoted a police officer, who refused to be identified, as saying that the two women died of a massive overdose of sedatives.

The women had left a letter explaining their suicide and asking for discretion, the officer was quoted as saying. Friends said the two had been very depressed for some time, partly because of the financial problems of a children’s institution they ran, according to the report.


String of Hits

Miss Deckers, 52, also known as Soeur Sourire or “Sister Smile,” produced a string of hits more than 20 years ago, the most famous of which, “Dominique,” sold millions of copies worldwide and earned a gold record after it went to No. 1 on the U.S. charts in 1963. It was an uptempo ballad, sung to the accompaniment of a single acoustic guitar.

Miss Deckers was a novice in a Dominican convent in Belgium and for some time did not learn of her fame. When she did, it was through a 1966 filmed version of her life titled “The Singing Nun” and starring Debbie Reynolds. The sister said the she found the picture “absolutely idiotic.”

Left Cloister in 1966

She left the cloister in 1966, saying she had become unsure of her dedication. She joined the Dominican Third Order, a group of lay members. In 1978 she told an interviewer that all the money she had earned from her recordings had gone to the order and that the Belgian tax collectors wanted $126,000 they claimed she owed.

At the time she was eking out a living teaching guitar near Brussels while giving free recitals in churches.

She was a shy, unworldly woman when she left the convent, she said then. “But now I see life differently. . . . Life is a struggle. And I struggle.”