55-year-old doll brings teacher, pupil together

June 22, 2010 by

Sister Rose Marie Dwyer remembers Jean Marie DeForest as a “little, tall blond girl” in first grade at Salina’s Sacred Heart School in 1955.

Jean Marie DeForest, now Smith, remembers Sister Rose Marie as “so good and kind, so loving toward all of us.”

But what neither remembers is why Sister Rose Marie — who today most often just goes by Rosie — handmade an exquisitely detailed Sisters of St. Joseph habit to adorn a 15-inch tall doll Jean Marie’s mother provided.

The three of them — Sister Rosie, now 60-year-old Jean Marie and the doll, who the little girl named Sister Eva Marie — were together this week for the first time in 55 years. When Jean Marie learned that Sister Rosie was visiting the Motherhouse from her home in Plainville, Kan., she decided to bring the doll to see if the now-elderly sister remembered her.

“As soon as I heard her name (on the phone), I could see her face,” Rosie said as she waited for Jean Marie to arrive from her home in Salina Monday. “That was just my second year teaching and there were about 60 children, but I knew her.”

Rosie also knew the doll as soon as she saw it, and she pointed out all the details that made the black habit worn by Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia unique: Black serge, 10 pleats on the bodice, turned-back cuffs, a guimpe made from an old one of her own, hidden inside pockets and a white band across the forehead that formed a triangle to symbolize the Trinity. There is also a tiny cross and a rosary, as well as a braided black belt. The complete outfit includes a black slip and black stockings.

Lifting up the veil, Jean Marie points out that the doll’s long, blonde hair was cut short just like that of a sister of that era.

Jean Marie says Sister Rose Marie told her mother to go buy a high-quality doll, and her mother found a completely dressed Madame Alexander “little girl” doll. She turned it over to the young teacher, who sometime later returned it to Jean Marie dressed in the pristine black serge of a Sister of St Joseph.

Today, remarkably, the doll is still in pristine condition. “That’s the box it’s been in all these years,” Jean Marie says, gesturing to the pinkish pressboard carton on the floor at her feet. “It’s always been very, very special to me.”

She was too young when she received it to remember if there was any specific reason for the unusual gift from a favorite teacher. And the then-young teacher — who taught for 10 years at Sacred Heart and then at St. Marys, Kan., before serving in Teresina, Brazil for 40 years — can only guess at the reason.

“Evidently, you were a special little girl,” Sister Rosie tells Jean Marie. “I would only have done something like this for someone who was very special.”

Comments

2 Responses to “55-year-old doll brings teacher, pupil together”

  1. Jean Smith on July 5th, 2010 11:41 am

    Thanks for the lovely artical. Wish Mom was here to see it. It would have meant so much to her. I’ll print the article and put with my treasured doll. Sister Rosie, Just wanted to remind you, the doll always went by “Sister Rose Marie”…as she will remain. With my love and prayers, Jean

  2. Anne M. Reinertcsj on June 22nd, 2010 7:41 pm

    Rosie, how special, even a doll clothed with love, can bond a life time. Blessings S.Anne

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