Marie Leon LaCroix, FSPA
March 21, 1918–March 20, 2017
This site is dedicated to remembering Marie Leon LaCroix, FSPA.
Sister Marie Leon LaCroix, FSPA, 98 (one day short of her 99th birthday), died Monday, March 20, 2017 at Villa St. Joseph, La Crosse, Wis. She was in the 78th year of her religious profession.
Born on March 21, 1918 in Spokane, Wash., Sister Marie Leon was the second daughter of Ernest and Mary (St. George Daly Corrigan) LaCroix. At Baptism she was given the name Margaret Mary. As she was growing up, Margaret liked making doll clothes, reading, acting out little plays with neighborhood children, making popcorn and candy, and playing games. When she was seven years old, her father died. Her mother began to take in boarders so she could provide for the family. In 1931, Margaret’s mother remarried. Soon her half-sister Kathleen was born and Margaret enjoyed helping to care for her. Margaret attended St. Xavier’s Elementary School and Marycliff High School. She found art to be fascinating and spent all her spare time in the art room. She described her years at Marycliff as “supreme happiness” and pushed thoughts of the future to the back of her mind. At the retreat in her senior year, Margaret realized she was being called to religious life and she recalled “a sudden peace and calmness came over me.” She entered St. Rose Convent on Aug. 7, 1936.
Margaret entered the novitiate on Aug. 5, 1937, and was given the name Sister Marie Leon. She pronounced first vows on Aug. 12, 1939, and final vows on Aug. 10, 1945.
Having earned a degree in education from Viterbo College (University), Sister Marie Leon taught on the elementary level for five years in Wisconsin before earning a degree in home economics and teaching for 11 years on the high school level at Carroll and Muscatine, Iowa, Spokane (Marycliff High School), Wash., and Superior, Ashland, and La Crosse (Aquinas High School), Wis. She continued her education in theatre at St. Louis University, Mo., the University of Iowa, Iowa City and Seattle University. In 1955, Sister Marie Leon started the theatre department at Viterbo College and was director, costume designer and maker, and associate professor until her retirement in 1994. Sister Marie Leon played a very prominent role in the design and building of Viterbo University’s Fine Arts Center, which continues to be a regional mainstage, attracting national and international performers. After retirement, she continued to volunteer at Viterbo, especially in making costumes. Sister Marie Leon made St. Rose her home in 2002 and moved to Villa St. Joseph in 2012.
Community members, family and friends remember Sister Marie Leon as a loyal FSPA, a woman of prayer, and an excellent theatre teacher. She had determination and spunk, a creative imagination, and was a stickler for details. All of these qualities helped her to accomplish the task of beginning the theatre arts department in Viterbo College (University). Sister Marie Leon loved teaching and was reluctant to come back to La Crosse. She confessed, “You give me a job, I’ll rant and rave, but once I say ‘Amen,’ that’s it. You give me people to work with, and that’s all I need.” (This included reaching into the community for men who would fill male acting roles, since Viterbo at that time was an all women’s college.) She started with a sewing machine and the old gym at Viterbo. She was director, costume sewer, and set designer. And when she had accomplished what she had been given to do, she retired to have time to spend with her God, to read and to contemplate. Sister Marie Leon was a true show-woman. She loved entertaining visits—with a focus on “entertaining.”
Sister Marie Leon is survived by her Franciscan community, her sister Kathleen Schneider, Spokane, and nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents and her sister Mildred Kopet.
Friends may call after 3:15 p.m. on Wednesday, March 22 at St. Rose Convent, La Crosse. A prayer service will be held at 6:30 p.m. in Mary of the Angels Chapel that evening. The Mass of Christian Burial at 10 a.m., Thursday, March 23, will be in the chapel. Burial will be in Gate of Heaven Cemetery, La Crosse.
Memorials may be sent to Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, 912 Market Street, La Crosse, WI 54601-4782 or the Sister Marie Leon LaCroix Scholarship Fund at Viterbo University, 900 Viterbo Dr., La Crosse, WI 54601.
Dickinson Funeral Home is assisting with arrangements.