Remembrance of the Life of Sister Anita Marie Robertson SL
Sept. 1, 1931 — May 17, 2019
Sister Anita Marie was baptized Mary Ellen Robertson, the third child of Charles Joseph Robertson of Denver and Emilie Rose Berthouldt Robertson of Chicago. The family was close-knit; even in adulthood, Anita Marie returned to care for her mother and spent periods of time with her siblings, Rosemary, Robert and especially James.
Anita Marie left us the following autobiography: “I was born in a good, happy Catholic family in Denver, Colorado. I went to public schools [and had] religious training once a week and two weeks in the summer.
“It was during my freshman year at Colorado State College of Education, Greeley, that I chose my vocation. As my father was sick with cancer at the time, there was much opposition. I was assured [by the superiors at Loretto that] I could go home (which I did) if my father took a turn for the worse. He died Sept. 24, 1951, during my canonical year.
“I taught primary grades in Missouri, Kentucky and New Mexico. As I always had a desire to write, I was relieved of teaching [in 1967, after 14 years, and sent to Lafayette to drive for the retired sisters. This ended after four years, when I went to Denver to care for my mother for three years.
“After my dear mother’s death, I alternated my time between California with my sister and Denver with my brother. As I was in a state of physical and emotional exhaustion, I needed [a year] to get back to normal.
[Returning to Denver in 1975], “I went to work in the law library of Holland and Hart. it was very satisfying and interesting work, for which I felt competent, but I still had a great desire to write. I have had three poems published in national magazines and got honorable mention in a contest by Colorado Writers Association.
“I lived alone in Denver for 10 years. I sometimes spent the weekend at the Center. Most of the time I felt I had enough contact with others at work, so I preferred living alone. I spent most weekends with my brother who lived alone. For three years my brother was unemployed. It taught me some valuable lessons in poverty and its effects.
“In 1980 I was injured on a bus. I had surgery on my back and have had some pain ever since. Since I felt it was the fault of the bus company, in that there was nothing to prevent me from falling in the bus, I decided to sue them. Over two years I worked with my attorneys, finally settling out of court. I have had some satisfaction to see that the newest buses incorporate all the features mentioned in my law suit.
“These years have brought me to a new maturity and a deepened spirituality. There has been pain — both physical and emotional — but I feel it has seasoned me.“
An article in Interchange December 2007 continues Anita Marie’s life story:
“In her brother Jim’s last years, spending the weekends trying to help him, she finally had to face the reality of doing something about her own damaged knee. It was that which eventually made it less possible for her to live alone and brought her [in 2005] to community life after years of independent living. At the Denver Center, Anita Marie found Virginia Ann Driscoll, also a comparatively new resident who soon became a very dear friend and often walked with Anita Marie as her knee healed.
“[In January 2007] Anita Marie wondered how she could express her gratitude to the community of sisters at the Denver Center. … For years this tall, quiet woman had written poetry, yet only rare samples had been published or shared personally with others. She decided to organize the more than 80 she has written since she left the novitiate in 1953, as a way to say thank you for the thoughtfulness she experienced while recovering from knee surgery.”
The booklet, Songs of Joy from an Alien Land, has had several supplements over the years. One of the poems published in Interchange was written as a tribute to Anita Marie’s friend Virginia Ann Driscoll, but we might read it as Anita’s final word to each of her Loretto companions:
“I called her to give my people Heartfelt Compassion
I called her to show my Kindness
I called her to know my Humility
I called her to share my Gentleness
I called her to join in my Patience
I called her to above all Love.”
– Prepared by Eleanor Craig SL