Home » Obituaries » Remembrance of the Life of Mary Edith Jones Seematter CoL

Remembrance of the Life of Mary Edith Jones Seematter CoL

Posted on January 8, 2022, by Eleanor Craig SL

Mary Edith Jones Seematter CoL
Mar. 28, 1937 – Jan. 8, 2022

Mary Edith Jones was born on March 28, 1937, at DePaul Hospital in St. Louis, the first of eight children of Ernest Robert and Rosemary Furlong Jones. She grew up with four brothers and three sisters in the southwest St. Louis area known as Southampton. Mary’s father was a businessman who had started Jones Music in the late 1930s while teaching music at the Hagan Conservatory.  

At the time Mary applied for co-membership she completed an autobiography for Loretto in which she sketched the arc of her life: “After grade school at St Mary Magdalen on South Kingshighway, I hoped to go to Loretto Academy [on Lafayette] but the school had just closed, so I went instead to St. Alphonsus ‘Rock’ High School.  I worked part time at my father’s store during the year and in the summers as a camp counselor, first at the archdiocesan camp, Don Bosco, and later for the City of St. Louis Department of Parks and Recreation.  

“Graduating from ‘Rock’ in 1955, I enrolled at Webster College. I had always hoped to go to college, but as the oldest of eight I wasn’t sure how my family and/or I could afford it. Nevertheless, I prepared myself as best I could by taking the hardest courses available at Rock.  Fortunately, I was fairly bright and with hard work I was able to make the grades. …With money from my part time job, help from my family and a half-tuition scholarship Sister Rose Maureen offered me … I was the first person in my family to go to college. 

“I was an English major at Webster and although a ‘day hop,’ I hung out pretty much with boarding classmates. Through them I got to know Sister Cecily Jones who was then Dean of Students. Sometime during my junior year I talked to Cecily about Loretto and determined that was what God wanted me to do with my life. Instead of completing my final year at Webster, I entered Loretto in the fall of 1958.

“Loretto became a very special place to me; to use a cliché, I really bonded with the land and what it represented. I especially looked forward to spring and fall.  It seemed that just being there was important to my spiritual growth. I was eager to learn the Community’s history and traditions. I was fortunate to be at Loretto during the tenure of Sister Luke Tobin, when biblical scholar Carroll Stuhlmueller and philosopher Dan Walsh [taught us] … and even Thomas Merton himself occasionally met with us.

“[As Sister Mary Kevin] I made first vows in the spring of 1961 and returned to St. Louis, to the House of Studies, to complete my final year at Webster.  Prior to entering, I had been heading for a career as a high school English teacher. When sent out to practice teach, however, I was assigned to fifth or sixth grade at St. Pius School, and when ‘missioned,’ I always taught middle and upper elementary grades. I was sent to St John’s School in Denver for two years, then All Souls School in Englewood for a year, living at St. Mary’s Academy.  The next year I was at Blessed Sacrament, Denver.  During the summers I taught Vacation Bible School, which I enjoyed, and took a class or two at Loretto Heights.  I liked living in Denver and being able to get away to the mountains from time to time for picnics and holidays.

“During the spring of 1966 I was told that I would not be making final vows. It was a painful and unpleasant surprise to me. I don’t recall anyone discussing reasons why with me — just that the Council had so decided and that they would, of course, do whatever they could to help me until I could get established. It was going to be a scary world, I thought, for someone who was leaving at age 29, young enough to be really into ‘living,’ but having very little idea how to go about it.  My community at Blessed Sacrament on the whole was kind and supportive, and the provincial, Sister Florence Wolff, assured me that I could count on her support.

“When I left Denver at the end of the school year in 1966, I needed some time to sort things out, to put my life back together. I decided to spend the summer with my brother, who was at Notre Dame in South Bend. Within a week of arriving, I landed a job as a senior counselor at a Camp Fire Girls camp. It was probably the best kind of job I could have gotten at that point. I would be doing something I was comfortable doing, and it didn’t require a professional wardrobe or social skills, both of which I was lacking. It bought me some time. 

“By the end of the summer I was ready to go back to St Louis, to my parents’ home. I took a job for about two/ three years as an educational therapist at the St Louis State Hospital. The job entailed creating whatever classes the adult clientele needed from G.E.D. preparation to setting up programs to teach social skills, like going to dinner in a sit-down restaurant.

“[I got together with] two novitiate friends who had left Loretto about the same time (Mary Joan DeCoster and Jan Steube). During the fall we started attending some singles dances. All of us hated these ‘cattle calls,’ but went anyway. Ironically, I think all of us wound up meeting our spouses at such events.  I met my future husband, Ed Seematter, at a singles dance shortly before Christmas.  About six weeks later, we decided to become engaged, though I insisted we put off a wedding until the end of the year.  

“Ed and I were married on Nov. 24, 1967. Since we were both 30 years old at the time, we wanted to start a family right away. I had a couple of miscarriages, and we had begun the process for adoption when I became pregnant again. … Our daughter, Sara Ellen Seematter, was born Dec. 3, 1970. Her sister, Colleen Erika Seematter, about a year and a half later on April 26, 1972.   

“I stayed home full time with the kids until Colleen was in kindergarten. Then, I just sort of fell into a job. One of the Sisters who was to teach part time in our parish school died suddenly over Labor Day weekend. When I heard the announcement, I went over to the convent to let the principal know that I was certified and could probably work out a part time teaching schedule, if that would help. Since Ed worked second shift at McDonnell Douglas, it really wasn’t much of a problem. That’s how I got back into the classroom. I continued on a part time schedule because my kids were still young and that’s what I wanted.

“A few years later, the principal called me in to tell me she had to let one of her two part-time teachers go. Both of us had excellent records, had been there about the same length of time. The main difference was that the other woman’s husband had just been laid off, and she had been diagnosed with cancer. She really needed the job and the health insurance. Of course, I had to be the one sacrificed. I fully concurred in the decision, but I guess the rejection got to me despite that. Since my income was not critical to our family’s survival, I decided not to look for another job at that point. During the summer I took a workshop at the Missouri Historical Society and had an opportunity to talk to the new director of education. I let her know if anything came up, I would be interested in knowing about it. I never expected anything to come of that. To my surprise, a few months later, I got a call inviting me to apply for a new part-time position which would involve creating a program for St. Louis Public Schools.

“One thing led to another. Part time led to full time as my children grew older. My job responsibilities increased, changed somewhat. Along the way, I’ve earned a master’s in history and earned a reputation as an historian with recognized expertise in St. Louis and local African-American history. In addition to my program planning responsibilities at Missouri Historical Society, I also have taught classes at Webster and Washington universities. In my late 50s I left the Historical Society and taught graduate level courses on African-American history in St. Louis at Washington University.

“Over the years, I have continued to maintain contact with Loretto. Whenever there has been an assembly in St. Louis, I’ve attended at least some of the meetings. Over the years I’ve been back to Loretto several times to visit – with a friend, with my family, and on a co-membership weekend. I’ve made new contacts and renewed old friendships. Loretto and I have had an enduring if irregular relationship. I want to continue to be a part of this family and to strengthen those bonds which have existed for so many years.” Mary Jones Seemater became a Loretto Co-member on June 10, 1995.  

Mary’s daughter Colleen completed the final chapter of Mary’s biography, writing, “Mary’s granddaughter, Barbara, was born in 1994.  Since Mary retired shortly after Barbara was born, she spent her time, along with Ed, watching Barbara one or two nights per week, teaching her to read, making home-cooked breakfasts for her the mornings after she spent the night, and in general spoiling her only granddaughter.

“Mary’s husband Ed developed Parkinson’s disease about three years before he died in 2017.  She assisted in caring for him at home until his last year when she had knee surgery and he had to go into a nursing home. Those were tough years for her; her favorite trips then were to the Loretto Motherhouse to help relieve the caregiving stress that came from taking care of Ed. Mary developed breast cancer and had a mastectomy in 2018, but bounced back well enough to resume some travels and church life, that is until COVID changed the world in 2019.

“Travel was one of Mary’s favorite things to do. Ed wasn’t much of an adventurer, but her sisters and daughters and granddaughter were. We had a memorable trip to Ireland in 2011, chauffeured all over Ireland by her niece Cathi, who lived there after marrying an Irishman.  In 2018, we had a memorable trip to the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, a great week of sleeping, eating, coloring and enjoying each other’s company.  On the way home we stopped at the Loretto Motherhouse!

“The last big trip Mary went on was in September of 2019.  She decided you can’t take your money with you so she arranged a big trip on the Rocky Mountaineer train for a journey across the Canadian Rockies from Vancouver to Calgary, with various stops, including the beautiful Lake Louise. Sara, Barbara and Colleen and her friend Eileen went on this trip, in the glass-domed train car on the top of the train. Even though arthritis had been causing pain in her knees and back, she powered through and we had our last big adventure together before COVID hampered travel.

“During COVID, Mary stayed healthy enough to avoid the virus. She spent a lot of time reading, watching TV, having small family get- togethers instead of larger family gatherings or friend gatherings. Her daughter Colleen got a goldendoodle puppy during COVID, and Mary fell in love with him and actually let him give her puppy kisses. He remained with her at her side as she was in hospice care.”  

Mary died Jan. 8, 2022, in hospice care. She lived a full and good life. She once wrote, “I am Loretto in my heart, as I have been most of my adult life.”  She will be missed by all her family, and by the Loretto Community.


Eleanor Craig SL

Eleanor has been a Sister of Loretto since 1963 and an educator since birth. She graduated from two of Loretto's best known St. Louis institutions, Nerinx Hall High School in 1960, and Webster University in 1967. She taught mathematics at Loretto in Kansas City, where her personal passion for adventure history inspired her to develop and lead treks along the historic Oregon Trail. From 1998 to 2010 she created an award-winning program of outdoor adventure along the Western trails for teens who are visually impaired. Eleanor claims to have conducted more wagon trains to the West than the Mountain Men! From 2012 to 2021, Eleanor led a talented staff of archivists and preservationists at the Loretto Heritage Center on the grounds of the Motherhouse. Now retired, she still serves in the Heritage Center as Loretto Community Historian.

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  1. Avatar Doris Pittman on January 15, 2022 at 2:56 pm

    Thank you very much for allowing us who could not attend Mary Seematter’s funeral in St. Louis. Mary and I were Loretto novitiate classmates, along with a great class of others, and will always be remembered.

    • Avatar Loretto Community on January 18, 2022 at 1:14 pm

      Dear Ms. Pittman,

      Please accept our condolences on the loss of your classmate Mary Seematter. We are so glad you were able to attend her funeral over Zoom.

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