Remembrance of the Life of Sister Agnes Marie Plumb SL
Sister Agnes Marie Plumb (Sister John Ellen)
November 11, 1921—August 11, 2013
Agnes Marie Plumb was born in Denver. Her father, John, was a bookbinder; her mother, Agnes Berry Plumb, kept house; both parents played and worked with Agnes who was their only child. After thirteen years Agnes got a “surprise” younger brother, John, who was a fun playmate despite the difference in their ages. Agnes attended St. Philomena’s grade school and Annunciation High School in Denver.
“A desire to do God’s work” inspired Agnes to apply to the Sisters of Loretto at the age of seventeen. She had been offered a scholarship to Loretto Heights College but preferred to enter the Novitiate in the fall of 1939. In a letter of recommendation, her pastor described her as “a level-headed, happy and wholesome youngster.” Agnes was received as Sister John Ellen on April 25, 1940. In her 1976 autobiography, Agnes Marie described her early years in relation to world events:
“I’ve laughingly said that I went into the convent and Hitler went into Poland in 1939. The distant guns in Europe had sounded then and became a harsh reality for the U.S. in December 1941. The war had just gotten a good start when I made my first vows on April 25, 1942. My years on the missions were happy but not particularly eventful. During the retreat preparatory to taking final vows, we heard of the atom bomb, then V-J Day. My first home visit was joyous not only because of visiting home again, but also because of the end of World War II. However, the Korean conflict started in 1949. Until the end of the Vietnam War, I had never taught when our country was not at war.”
Agnes Marie studied at Loretto Heights and Loyola University, Los Angeles, earning an AB degree in 1954 and a Master’s Degree in 1969, both in Elementary Education.
Agnes Marie enjoyed a forty-year career as an elementary school teacher and principal, beginning with a year in St. Louis, then serving entirely in the West with the exception of one year at St. Benedict’s in Louisville. In 1967, following nine years at Nativity in Los Angeles, Agnes Marie moved to El Paso where she served for eighteen years, including a ten-year term as principal at St. Joseph Elementary school, El Paso, another four years as assistant principal, then four years at Loretto Elementary in El Paso. In 1984 Agnes Marie moved to the Denver Center, teaching in the Havern Center and later co-directing the Rhodes Tutoring Center. She completed her very active career as a volunteer for the Spirituality Center and as sacristan for the Denver Center community.
In her autobiography Agnes Marie mentioned two highlights of her teaching career: In 1948 she was teaching in the public school in Socorro, New Mexico, when a cowboy served her with a subpoena. The court case to which she was called to testify resulted in a verdict that barred religious from working in New Mexico’s public schools. More happily, in 1974 Agnes Marie had what she called “the chance of a lifetime” when she spent five “thrilling and beneficial” weeks in London studying the British Infant School system.
She retired to Loretto Motherhouse Infirmary in 2007 at the age of eighty-six. Agnes Marie died peacefully on Sunday August 11, 2013.