Sister Joanne Patricia Gwizdala was born on March 8, 1927, in Bay City, Michigan. She was the fourth of five children born to Ann (Wazbinski) and Joseph Gwizdala. Both of her parents were born in a Bay County rural township: her mother in Linwood area and her father in the Fisherville area.
In her autobiography, Sister Joanne shared the following about her family.
Dad was orphaned at the age of nine and lived with his uncle on the farm. When he was older he moved to Bay City, Michigan, to live with his oldest brother [until at] the age of seventeen when he enlisted in the army and was sent to Europe in the First World War. Mother helped on Grandpa’s farm and later moved to Bay City and did housework for some of the lumber barons who had large estates.
They both enjoyed music and dancing and met during the “Big Band Era.” They were married in 1920 in Bay City. When they were getting married, my mother said to my father, “Joe, I don’t care where we live, but don’t buy a farm!’” My dad worked at Pete’s Packing Company and delivered meat to stores in the “Thumb” area.
I have two brothers and two sisters. My brother Marion was a Navy pilot in the Second World War. He was killed at the age of 33 while testing one of the planes used for teaching cadets in Pensacola, Florida. My brother Leonard was in the Army division. My older sister Eugenia was better known as Gene and my older sister Edna was about six years younger.
Read more about Sister Joanne (pdf)
Memorial gifts may be made to Adrian Dominican Sisters, 1257 East Siena Heights Drive, Adrian, Michigan, 49221. Funeral arrangements are being handled by Anderson Funeral Home, Adrian.
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Mary Rebecca Garcia, Associate, one of six children, was born in a coal mining camp in northern New Mexico on September 13, 1930 to Manuel and Clara Garcia. She described her parents as “family oriented, loving, caring, hard working people” who raised their children in the Catholic faith and sent them to Catholic schools.
Growing up in a mining camp made a significant impact on Rebecca. Although her parents were not well educated, they made certain their children were and taught them the value of faith and leadership. Her father, a union leader, was eventually elected to the New Mexico Legislature, where he championed the cause of coal miners.
Rebecca attended St. Patrick’s Academy, staffed by the Sisters of Mercy. After high school she attended the College of St. Mary in Omaha, Nebraska, and eventually completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from New Mexico Highlands University. She earned a PhD in curriculum and instruction from the University of New Mexico.
Rebecca’s career was always in education. She started as a high school teacher in journalism, English, and business and, in time, became a school counselor and worked in school administration. Rebecca worked for the New Mexico State Department of Education, the Zuni Public Schools as Director of Instruction, the Los Lunas Schools as Assistant Superintendent, and St. Mary’s School in Belen as principal.
In total, Rebecca worked for more than 45 years in education. She believed that all children have the capacity to become productive adults, and her role was to foster an environment and stimulus to help children learn.
When she was 26, Rebecca married Edward Lutz. Tragedy struck this couple as, after 15 years of marriage, Edward was killed in a car accident. They had wanted children but, unfortunately, were not given that opportunity.
About the different hardships in her life, Rebecca shared the following: “Although I have had some disappointments (losing my husband, no children, losing my parents), I am basically a happy, positive, and goal oriented person. I feel that God has given me many gifts and I am happy to be an active member of my parish.”
Rebecca enjoyed travel, music, books, and gardening and she doted on her many nieces and nephews. After Edward’s death in 1971, Rebecca pursued her lifelong goal of becoming an airplane pilot. In 1972, she received her commercial and private licenses and purchased a plane, which she used to fly all over the state and beyond. She participated in flying competitions and was elected president of the Albuquerque 99’s, founded by Amelia Earhart for women in aviation. She had a really close call once and ended up gliding her plane to land on the interstate.
Rebecca met Sister Charlotte Moser, OP, at her parish, San Clemente, and was mentored by her and Sister Daria Herbella, OP. She was welcomed to Associate Life in May 1999 and was very active, renewing her commitment several times.
Rebecca Garcia Lutz was an amazing woman, who was fully engaged in life through her many organizations, her parish, her community and her family, as well as the Dominican Family.
The final years brought health challenges, and Rebecca died on May 11, 2016.
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Sister Ann de Lourdes Plourde, baptized Laurel Ann, was born on October 19, 1925, in Detroit. She was the oldest of the five children born to Gordon and Gertrude (Stindt) Plourde. Her parents were of French and German ancestry from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Her father was a corporate attorney and her mother a school teacher before they married.
In her autobiography, Sister Ann wrote:
After they were married five of [my mother’s] sisters came one by one to work in Detroit and live in our home until they married or left again. Occasionally Grandma or Grandpa lived with us and we enjoyed the comparative luxury of having help with the dishes and having our clothes ironed beautifully. The increasing demands of a family of five children and occasionally a grandparent did not put us in what is modernly called ‘the upper bracket.’
Read more about Sister Ann de Lourdes Plourde (pdf)
Sister Barbara Bieker was born in her grandmother’s house in Chehalis, Washington, on October 2, 1932. She was the second of three children born to Thomas Andrew and Ruby Alice (Handy) Bieker. In an article entitled, “I Need to be Ready for Anything,” Sister Barbara shared the following information about her family and childhood.
I have an older brother Jim and a younger sister Rosemary. When I was a young child, my family moved to Onalaska, Washington, where my public school education began. My family attended Mass sometimes at St. Joseph’s in Chehalis where I first met the Dominican Sisters [Congregation of Holy Cross]...I was impressed by their kindness. It was at this time that I first wanted to be a teacher.
When I was a junior in high school, the Sisters came from [their Motherhouse in] Everett to teach summer vacation school. Sister Mary Jean Dorcy and Sister Agnella Graf invited and encouraged me to finish my senior year at Holy Angels High School in Seattle, which I did.
Read more about Sister Barbara (pdf)
Our Adrian Dominican cemetery with its circular headstones is a beautiful place of rest for women who gave their lives in service to God—and a peaceful place for contemplation and remembrance.
We will post memorial reflections on our faithfully departed Sisters and Associates. If you would like to reflect on a Sister or Associate who has gone before us, please send your reflections – no more than 500 to 600 words – to
We invite you to meet some of the wonderful women who have recently crossed into eternity.