Home » Features » Loretto Celebrates Neil Tucker’s Co-Membership in Kansas City

Loretto Celebrates Neil Tucker’s Co-Membership in Kansas City

Posted on June 1, 2022, by Eleanor Craig SL

A diverse group of people of a wide range in ages pose for a photo, all smiling.
Celebrating with Neil, left to right, front row, are Carole Eschen, Vickie Tucker, Barb Doak, Cathy Smith (with little Michael Bell for whom she cared), Eleanor Craig and Tina Blatter. Back row: Mary Vincent, Neil Tucker, Kathy Kenney. Michael Bell lives with his parents in the wonderful house where the celebration was held.
Photo courtesy of Eleanor Craig

“My desire is that this event will allow me to honor Loretto and tell the story of how I encountered and connected with the Loretto Community.” That’s the way Neil Tucker began his co-membership celebration in Kansas City, Mo., on April 22, 2022.

COVID-19 and Neil’s natural shyness of the spotlight had delayed his celebration for more than two years after his formal acceptance in March 2020. Finally, the evening of April 22, Community Group 16 and many Kansas City friends were able to gather face-to-face in the home of David and Debbie Star, friends of Cathy Smith’s, where a large living room, gracious kitchen and strong internet connection allowed us to Zoom the celebration to the whole Loretto Community. Neil’s sister and two brothers also joined us online.

Neil’s wife, Vickie, a music therapist in the Kansas City, Kan., schools, played background music on the piano while we got settled, then signaled the beginning of the ritual with the song Neil had chosen, “Just As I Am, Lord.”

A blessing recorded by Marcella Shields and a reading of the Magnificat, “You, Lord, have done great things in me …” set the stage for the story of Neil’s journey to Loretto co-membership.

Looking into the Zoom camera, Neil introduced himself as a native of Spokane, Wash., and a professional television journalist in Spokane and Kansas City, Mo. He invited Barbara Doak, Carole Eschen and Eleanor Craig to fill in with stories of how he came to meet Mary McNellis and Barbara in his neighborhood, to send his daughter to Kansas City Academy where Carole and Martha Fly taught and to make movies with Eleanor, starting with pioneer trail trips and continuing with several on Loretto, including three about Loretto’s retirement centers and one about Loretto co-membership. Neil quoted several individuals in the co-membership movie as he expressed his own sense of commitment. He credited a number of Loretto individuals for what he has learned in the process of becoming a co-member and how it has changed his life.

“My point is that those patterns I encounter by way of my involvement with Loretto — the retreats, the books, the conversations with individuals — come with me and enrich the circles I am a part of in my local community, at my church, in my family and within my circle of one.”

“My commitment is that I will accompany and be in the company of Loretto as we both venture into the unknown.

“I may not fix anything but to paraphrase a fellow co-member, Kathy Baldwin, I take this commitment seriously. As another co-member, Sally Dunne, said, ‘Whatever I do in the future I’ll do it as a member of Loretto.’”

Coming to the end of the ritual, Neil thanked everyone and especially the Loretto Community. In true Loretto Zoom style he concluded, “Those of you on Zoom can unmute yourself after the song and chat if you like!” Then his wife, Vickie, played the entire score of Doris Pittman’s “We Give You Glory, Thanks and Praise” while all of us blew our little breaths and broke into applause.

The connection between Eleanor Craig and Vickie R. Tucker, Neil’s spouse, is one of the many and earliest contributions to his becoming part of the Loretto Community. Eleanor and Vickie served on the board of Accessible Arts Inc. at the Kansas School for the Blind when Neil met Eleanor and started going on her Discovery Trails trips with kids with visual impairments.
Photo courtsey of Eleanor Craig

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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