Remembrance of the Life of Sister Kay (formerly Sister Timothy Marie) Lane SL
(Author’s Note on Kay Lane SL: Kay left us nothing written about herself. But she was a great storyteller. What follows here are the facts from Kay’s personnel record, embellished with the memories of her novitiate classmates, friends with whom she lived and worked, and especially her close friend, Kathleen Tighe SL.)
If Kay Lane were telling this story herself, she would begin with the story of her grandparents and parents in Germany. One grandfather was a doctor and the other was a university scholar. Their grown children, including Kay’s father, Curtis, also were educated business people. They were just what Hitler’s regime had begun to target; they were successful Jews. By the 1920s they and their many scholarly and business contacts had become convinced that Hitler’s violent agenda was heading for a reign of terror. Kay’s entire extended family left Germany in the late 1920s bound for the United States. When their ship landed, one of the grandfathers is reported to have said, “Now we will be Catholics.” By 1933, when Kay was born, her grandparents and parents had settled in Mobile, Ala., where families of Jewish origin had been welcome for generations.
Kay’s parents, Curtis Winston Lane and Capitola Felicia Webster Lane, joined St. Mary’s Parish where Kay was baptized Veronica Kay. As the only young child in a close knit emigrant family, Kay was cherished, encouraged and also allowed to do pretty much what she wanted. Her mother was not well, so her father moved both sets of grandparents into their large family home. Kay often said she was raised by her grandfathers and learned her wonderful cooking skills in the kitchen with her grandmothers. She was especially close to her father, a well-liked and successful business man, and often went with him on his business rounds. It must have been from her father that Kay learned her comfortable ways with people and her spontaneous generosity. In a household of generous, active and gifted adults, Kay grew into the energetic, generous person we have all appreciated.
Kay attended St. Mary’s School with the Irish Sisters of Mercy for the first six grades and then Visitation Academy, an historic and prestigious school run by the Visitation Sisters, for grades seven and eight. For high school she chose Bishop Toolen, with the Loretto Sisters. Before she had completed high school, Kay was thoroughly and earnestly determined to join Loretto. She wrote to Mother Edwarda in September of her senior year:
“Ever since I came to Bishop Toolen High School as a freshman I have wanted to become a Sister of Loretto. Now that graduation is drawing near next May, I would like to fulfill that desire by placing my application for admission to your Novitiate. As things stand now, my father and the others concerned have consented to my choice of state of life and are agreeable to my leaving this coming June, if this will be possible.”
Admitted on June 8, 1951, Kay joined a class of postulants that included Marian McAvoy, Kathleen Vonderhaar, Nancy Wittwer and Bea Klebba. She reportedly laughed and giggled a lot. She was also a great favorite of Novice Mistress Sister Martha, perhaps in part because she solicited her grandfather’s help in replacing the old, heavy, flat irons in the laundry with new electric irons — he sent an even dozen!
Kay received the habit and the name Sister Timothy Marie on Dec. 8, 1951, and made her first vows two years later. Just months too early to go to the House of Studies, Kay was sent in January 1954 to finish out the school year with second- and third-graders at St. Pius School in St. Louis. That fall she returned to Kentucky to teach first grade at Christ the King in Louisville for the next five years. One who taught with Kay at Christ the King admired how she broke down walls with people. She was a tease, fun and interesting to live with. Kay was quick to make friends with staff and parents and was well liked by her supervisors.
From Louisville, Kay was sent again to St. Louis for a 10-year period of teaching first graders at Sacred Heart School and then at the grade school of Visitation Parish. These were the years of great changes in the inner city parishes. At Visitation many black families were moving into the parish. Kay eagerly participated with the rest of the faculty and the pastor in an intensive program of home visitations to welcome the new parishioners and invite them to create a parish community where they would be comfortable.
After 15 years teaching in the Midwest, Kay relocated to California where she would make a series of very happy homes until returning to the Motherhouse in 2013. In 1968 Kay went to Holy Family School in South Pasadena, first as a second-grade teacher, but in four years appointed principal, a role that drew on all her enthusiasm for encouraging people. According to Marian McAvoy, who had occasion to follow Kay’s career, Kay was an “excellent school woman. As principal she was very aware of her faculty’s needs. She had a way of bringing out what was good in people. And not just people, either; plants and animals as well responded to Kay’s encouragement.”
While in Pasadena, Kay became good friends with Ann Virginia and Kathleen and the entire Tighe family, who adopted her enthusiastically. In 1980 Kay and Kathleen both took time off, Kay at El Cerrito for a sabbatical and Kathleen to study at the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, where Kay joined her the following year. Kay took a teaching position at Walnut Creek for three years, then settled with Kathleen in Albany, Calif., where Kay taught at St. Augustine School for 14 years until retirement.
All that time the household Kay and Kathleen created was hostel, shelter, entertainment center, second family and refuge for Loretto members and many, many others. Their Sunday card parties were renowned, Kay’s baking even more so. Kay was again near a big body of water, reminded of the years on Mobile Bay and the adventures with her grandfather. She fished from the docks and went deep sea fishing with friends she had made on the docks. Kay and Kathleen would take in anyone and everyone, just as Kay had experienced as a child when her father opened their home to a needy black family.
Kay had many generous friends. She could get friends to help her in the same way she helped so many others. She could see and solve problems. She was always on the go, cleaning up, packing up, getting things done when someone had to move. When she and Kathleen themselves had to move back to Kentucky, Kay brought the same fun-loving energy and thoughtfulness to the Motherhouse Community. She loved to shop for groceries, bringing exotic condiments to the dining table. She loved to bake for birthdays, and, of course, she loved to grow enormous tomatoes and serve them herself to each person in the dining room.
Kay didn’t leave us a written account of the values that guided her generous life. She didn’t leave a favorite prayer or a bit of inspirational writing. What we know and all we need to know about the meaning of Kay’s life she gave us in her actions.
One of Kay’s novitiate classmates who has known her through all 69 of her Loretto years summed up her life:
“She was truly Kay. She never put on any acts. She was what she was, always.”
My family received the open kindness of Kay and Kathleen when we had a conference to attend in San Francisco. They cared lovingly for my, then, two grandsons who were aged 6 and 2, respectively, Mike and Ben. The boys were safe and happy during those few days, and remembered Sisters Kay and Kathleen forever afterward. It was such a pleasure to introduce these two young men to Kay lately.