Living a Life of Giving

April 26, 2021 by

Sister Susan Stoeber, a life-long career nurse, may have retired from nursing … but she hasn’t retired from helping people and bringing joy to people’s lives.

Sister Susan is well-known in the area from her 45 years as a nurse at the local hospital, now known as Cloud County Health Center, in Concordia. But she hasn’t let retirement from her career slow her down from giving back to the community and making people happy.

These days she works a few days at the Nazareth Motherhouse, maintaining a supply center of over-the-counter medications, personal hygiene supplies and other basic necessities and special requests for the sisters. She said she followed in the footsteps of Sister Charlotte Lutgen, also a retired nurse, who took care of purchasing and distributing supplies for the sisters for years. When Sister Charlotte retired, Sister Susan took over in about 2017.

“I do shopping, restocking and distributing. The sisters fill out slips and then I pick up the orders,” Sister Susan said. “Sister Charlotte continued to help as long as she could.”
But many people know Sister Susan for what she does when she’s not working — crocheting whimsical animals that are always in demand.
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Sister Susan with some of her creations.

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“I worked 45 years at the hospital here in town (Concordia). After graduation I started here and I stayed here,” Sister Susan said. “When I started as a nurse we didn’t have an intensive care unit, so I worked the MedSurg floor. That’s short for Medical Surgical floor. I graduated in 1970, and we got our Intensive Care Unit on the third floor in 1972 or ‘73, and then I was educated for that and that’s where I worked the entire time until things changed with technology and I started working between the two.”

She said she was always excited about medical advancements.

“We were a small hospital, but some of the new doctors there started new procedures, and that was exciting, and we got a lot of post surgical patients,” she said. “I saw a lot of changes between now and then.”

Retirement was a change.

“I miss it, that was all I knew.”

She said she had hoped to make it 50 years in her career, but with the changes in computer requirements it became too difficult to take care of patients and handle the technology.

Crocheting to help others

Another way Sister Susan is known in the area is for her crocheted animals. Thanks to her roommates she had as a nurse in Concordia, she learned to crochet and advance her skills.

Sister Susan lived with Sister Leah Smith and Sister Jackie Kircher since the 1980s. They are both now deceased.

Sister Leah taught her how to crochet and how to make rosaries — both of which she continues to do. Some of her rosaries and many of her stuffed animals can be found in the Nazareth Motherhouse Gift Shop.

“It keeps me busy. I have to be busy all the time,” she said.

Sister Susan said she started out finding patterns on Pinterest. If it is something simple like a small teddy bear she’s made before, she can make one in a day or two. If it is more complicated … well that depends.

“Now if it’s a new pattern and big, it can take a long time,” she pulled out an intricate, large stuffed alpaca. “This took me forever. The first try was real difficult. The second one I tried probably took me a week to make.”

Other popular designs she has made were baskets with baby dolls with a full wardrobe of crocheted clothes, various species of dinosaurs, and a crocheted ‘Baby Yoda.’
Her designs are usually at the Motherhouse Gift Shop, but she’s also shared them with Neighbor to Neighbor for their annual Holiday Boutique.

“I make a lot for N2N. Last year we had a little truck that one of the guys did and I made all of the little animals that went in the back.”

She has a dinosaur grouping planned for the next time N2N can host one of their events in person.

Sister Susan also does custom orders, including a group of 15 honey bees for a girls’ sports team.

“One girl asked me if I’d ever made a Baby Yoda. I said, no, but if I can find a pattern I will. So I made her a Baby Yoda,” she said. “If they come up to me and make a request I will try to do it.”

Her Baby Yodas have been a best seller in the gift shop and at the annual plant sale.

She also donates her work to charity.

“I called the Cloud County Resource Center one year and asked if she’d want a bunch of the small teddy bears and she was tickled pink. I took them two tubs of stuff to give to their Christmas programs,” she said. “This year I asked and they weren’t doing it due to Covid, so I took them to Neighbor to Neighbor and they gave it to all the kids for their Christmas packages.”

Currently she’s working on a bunch of teddy bears for a group in Lindsborg that is sending baskets to kids in need overseas.

Managing supplies

When she’s not crocheting, or helping out driving sisters to appointments, she manages the supplies. She said she tries to keep the shopping to once a week, but there has been more demand since more sisters have returned to the Motherhouse.

But the job has its benefits.

“The best thing about coming here and having this position is getting to know the sisters, because, as a nurse, you don’t get involved in the Motherhouse stuff a lot. I didn’t even come to a lot of the meetings, because of work. So getting to know the older sisters personally means a lot to me,” she said. “And I think that is the best part about this job.”

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