SISTER KATHLEEN BRISBOE
1914-2006

Sister Kathleen Brisboe spent the last twenty-nine years in California. When she celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 1992, she was interviewed for an article in the Monterey Diocesan newspaper, The Observer. One of the questions concerned her future plans. She answered:

To enjoy life and travel as much as my health will permit. This summer I hope to go to Michigan, and to drive down to Texas. And, hopefully, I’ll be around in another ten years to get to my Double Diamond.

As highlights of her sixty years as an Adrian Dominican, she listed:

That I was able to travel so much and see so much of the country. I went all over the United States, Europe, Hawaii … Also when I got my master’s degree. And, of course, my Silver Jubilee, my Golden Jubilee, and now, my Diamond Jubilee.

She did see and celebrate her Double Diamond Jubilee in 2002. But death came to her in June 2006 at Dominican Santa Cruz Hospital. She died on Holy Trinity Sunday, and a memorial Mass was held for her at Holy Cross Church in Santa Cruz on June 13. She had lived to the age of ninety-two, a long and fruitful life — seventy-four of those years in the Adrian Dominican Congregation.

Sister Kathleen was born on February 6, 1914, in Grayling, Michigan, to Thomas Frederick and Catherine (Sullivan) Brisboe. They christened her Kathleen Frances. She was one of four children, three daughters and a son.

Thomas Brisboe was from Bay City, Michigan, and came from a French heritage. He worked for the Michigan Central Railroad, and provided a good life for his family. Catherine Sullivan, of Irish ancestry, was originally from Canada, and had immigrated to Michigan. There the two met, married, and settled in Grayling. Both were dedicated Catholics.

By the time Kathleen had reached school age, her parents had moved the family to Owosso. There she began her education in 1921 at St. Paul School with the Adrian Dominican Sisters. Two years later the family moved to Lansing, and she continued her education through grade and three years of high school at St. Mary School. She finished her high school education at St. Joseph Academy in Adrian.

On September 25, 1932, Kathleen arrived in Adrian, and accepted the postulant’s veil from Mother Augustine Walsh. Within a short time she was on the train for Chicago, where for that school year she taught third grade at St. Carthage School, supervised by an experienced teacher.

She and her group received the habit and their religious names on August 8, 1933. Kathleen was allowed to keep her own name. From that date until the 1970s, she was known as Sister Marie Kathleen. On August 9, 1934, she professed her first vows.

For the first eight years after profession, she taught middle grade and junior high students in Detroit: four years at St. Gabriel and four years at St. Ambrose. She then taught on the primary level for a year at St. James in Maywood, Illinois. Returning to Michigan, she taught junior high students for eight years at St. Paul in Grosse Pointe and for a year at Queen of the Miraculous Medal in Jackson.

Beginning with 1932, she taught eighth grade for eight years at St. Rita School in Chicago, then was brought back to Michigan and served for a second time at St. Joseph in Maybee, this time as principal of the school and superior of the sisters. When her successful six-year term ended, she was transferred to St. Joseph in Wyandotte, Michigan, for a year, then sent back to Illinois as eighth-grade teacher at Our Lady of Knock School in Calumet City. During these years, there were periods of sadness for her and her siblings when their mother died in March 1957 and their father, in February 1965.

After three years in Calumet City, she again became principal at Christ the King School in Des Moines, Iowa. Two years later, she accepted the position of principal at St. Colette School in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, for five years. At the wake in Adrian, Sister Martin Mary Ryan remembered:

I was principal at St. Francis Xavier in Chicago. She didn’t drive, so I used to go to Rolling Meadows and pick her up, and we would go to the principals’ meetings together. At that time, the Archdiocese was offering a trip to Europe, so the two of us went to Europe together for a month, and we traveled through the European countries — France, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland.

In 1977, Sister Kathleen went to California and taught on the junior high level at St. Catherine of Siena School in Reseda. In an interview, Sister Marie Noreen Nolan explained how this came about.

I met Sister Kathleen in 1975. She had met Sister Donalda Fredricks here in Adrian one summer. Sister Donalda was missioned in Reseda, California, at that time, and she was living with Sister Patrick Noreen [Betty] Nolan, my sister. Sister Donalda asked Sister Kathleen if she would consider moving to California. Sister Kathleen went to California, looked things over, and decided she liked California. At the same time, I was at Regina High School in Wilmette [Illinois], but I was ready for a change. So the two of us arrived in Southern California at the same time. That’s where we met. We taught at St. Catherine of Siena School.

After six years at St. Catherine, Sister Kathleen accepted a position as junior high teacher at Our Lady of Grace in Encino. Sister Marie Noreen also taught there. Sister Kathleen remained there for two years; then transferred to St. Cyril of Jerusalem School, also in Encino, for a year.

In 1986, Sister Kathleen was seventy-two years of age and in poor health. She deemed it time to leave the classroom. For two years she lived in an apartment in Encino, a medical sabbatical during which she received treatment. In 1988, with improved health, she moved into Dominican Oaks in Santa Cruz. In the Santa Cruz News for October 4, 1990, an advertisement for Dominican Oaks featured a large picture of Sister Kathleen, and quoted her:

Some things I’m happy to leave in the past — like household chores. At Dominican Oaks, I can relax in my own roomy, modern apartment — and I don’t even have to think about housekeeping.

There are so many activities and friends to enjoy. And now I’ll have a brand-new service called Personal Assistance to help me with medications, bathing, dressing, whatever I need to live comfortably and independently. With Dominican Hospital close by, I feel safe here night and day. Believe me, Dominican Oaks is in a class by itself!

Sister Marie Noreen said:

We visited back and forth, and she was always telling us how wonderful Dominican Oaks was. That was the time when Villa Serra in Salinas was being built. Sister Patrick Noreen (Betty) and I moved into Villa Serra, and shortly Sister Kathleen came also [in 1991]. We enjoyed our retirement together.

Sister Carol Louise Hiller had also lived at Villa Serra, and had come to know Sister Kathleen well. In an interview, she said:

She would go down to Texas to visit her brother. After his wife died, he moved to Nevada, and she visited him there once. Then he moved to Michigan, and she visited him there. But she didn’t have good health, and it was hard for her to go on visits.

Because of her poor health, she seldom went to the activities at Villa Serra … But she was a good person and easy to talk to. I did painting, and she always encouraged me in that. We would go out on special occasions, and her idea of a good lunch was a hamburger.

She always went to our Mission Group meetings. She didn’t drive, and I always took her … Another thing, she never missed Mass. And her apartment was always neat and orderly. It was always ready for company. You could walk in there morning, noon, or night, and it was always ready.

For the last couple of years, she was the bursar for the Adrian Dominican Sisters who lived at Villa Serra.

A wake-remembrance service was held for Sister Kathleen on June 15 in St. Catherine Chapel. Sister Catherine Olds, Chapter Prioress of the Dominican West Mission Chapter, greeted those who had assembled to bid Sister Kathleen farewell. She extended sympathy to Sister Kathleen’s grandniece Julie and her husband Tom, and the many Dominican friends who were present. Sister Catherine summarized Sister Kathleen’s life and ministry, and concluded:

During her last several years, Sister Kathleen endured many physical illnesses, and she felt the loss of not being as active as she would like. However, she continued to live independently in her attractive and well-organized — everything in its place — apartment at the Villa. She faithfully walked with her God, attended Mass daily, and every evening said her Rosary with special tapes. She was faithful to her vows and community — always expressing her honest opinion — but always listening. During the last days of her life, when she was able to converse, she over and over expressed her gratitude and kept saying, “How lucky we are to be Adrian Dominicans!”

She was a private person, and wished no tribute in her name. However, it is most appropriate for us to speak of her life, and we know that she will forgive us.

Sister Kathleen’s cousin, Sister Kathleen Donnelly, who is recovering from illness in Miami, Florida, sent a fax. She wrote in part:

I did not have the blessing of knowing my cousin, Kathleen Brisboe, before I entered our Adrian Congregation. We first met the day before my first profession. Sister Kathleen took my veil, starched the linen, and sewed on the black. Needless to say, I had the best looking veil in the crowd.

After a summer together at Kelleys Island, Sister Kathleen and I kept in touch by mail and phone. Her devotion to the rosary and scapular became evident as the years passed. Our visits were too seldom and too short.

Sister Marie Noreen said:

Sister Kathleen was ninety-two when she died, but she never used a cane, walker, or wheelchair. And she always wore shoes with little heels. She loved to travel, and she was always very grateful for anything done for her. Gratitude was one of her outstanding characteristics. She loved the rosary, and wore her scapular every night. She never missed daily Mass and Communion. She was very prayerful.

Sister Martin Mary Ryan remembered:

Sister Kathleen was a very private person. She never talked about her family or her early life, but she was close to her niece. She was, however, an outgoing person. She loved parties, and she loved to dress up in nice clothes. When she died, we put a pair of her shoes with little heels in her casket.

Sister Kathleen’s funeral liturgy took place on June 16. Father Roland Calvert, OSFS, was the presider, and Sister Catherine Olds was the homilist. In addition to Sister’s grandniece Julie, her nephew-in-law Bob and grandniece Cathy were present. Sister was very close to her niece Sally, Bob’s wife.

God took Sister Kathleen to eternity on June 11, 2006. There she is reunited with all the loved ones who have preceded her, and is free of all limitations.