Alumni

Sr. Marie Leon LaCroix Tributes

I was not a theatre major, nor did I ever have a course with Sister Marie Leon as I came to Viterbo three years after her retirement. However, she was a legend. She was definitely full of spunk, full of laughter, and full of life. She was a wonderful mentor to me, and I was so blessed to have her give my family a tour of Saint Rose Convent. Her knowledge, passion, and compassion are things I am so honored to have shared in, and I am deeply saddened by the news of her passing. She is one more angel looking over our Viterbo community, and she has definitely left this world a much better place. Pax et bonum, Sister Marie Leon.

Juan F. Jimenez '01, '06
Former student


Sister Marie was the first professor at Viterbo when I returned to obtain my Bachelor of Science in Accounting. She is the reason I had the confidence to continue on with my education. She became a trusted friend to me and my husband. We will never forget her.

Leanne Stokes
Former student


My fondest memory of Sr. Marie Leon is that she MADE me have a roll in a play (The Curious Savage) - she claimed no English major could graduate without being in a play - and I didn't know if that was true or not! Getting on stage terrified me, but I did it. And I thought she'd totally despair of me when she was coaching me with my graduation speech! I haven't been back to La Crosse in a long time - she, Sr. Celestine and Sr. Lucille were three of my favorite teachers and all influenced me so much. They prepared me for so well for my future in education.

Betty Keefe '59
Former student


My favorite quote from her. "Do not let your emotion rule your intellect". We are diminished, RIP

Todd Nelson '94
Former student


I was a freshman when Sister Leon got my attention. She was like a gust of wind that you could not be curious about. I did not have any acting or singing talents so I joined the make-up department, just to be part of this theater community. I loved her spirit and her toughness. She made it possible for a girl from the Chicago area to make friends and adjust to college life. Thank You Sister for all your kindness and patience.

Rosanna DeSimone Scala '70
Former student


Marie-Leon was, in so many ways, a mentor to me. The last time my husband and I visited Marie-Leon up at the Villa, she read us love poetry, shared stories about summers at Banff Theatre Festival and her pre-FSPA years that I'd never heard, and shared with us that sweet loving spirit she always had. Before we visited with her, we told her we had walked the grounds. She asked if we had seen the garden out back, and with a great smile and twinkling eyes, she explained to us a beautiful secret about it...I hope she becomes a part of that secret.

Kyrst Hogan '90
Former student


Just a few weeks ago I had that incredible opportunity to spend a few precious and life-changing hours with Sr. Marie Leon at Villa St. Joseph reminiscing about the past, celebrating the present, and anticipating the future. Amazingly, my last visit with Sr. Marie Leon was as inspirational, thought-provoking, and joyful as my very first visit with her as a freshman student in 1982. In many ways Sr. Marie Leon remained in my mind "ageless" and timeless in spirit and creative energy over the last 35 years, although her earthly body was slowly and peacefully giving way to the next life.

Throughout the decades, Sr. Marie Leon remained one of the most important teachers, advisors, mentors, life-guides, role models and friends in my life. I had the amazing and unique opportunity to be both Sr. Marie Leon's student from 1982-1987 and then her faculty colleague when I returned to Viterbo in 1992 to serve as a Theatre Arts faculty member and department chair. Both as a student and as a colleague, my personal and professional life was positively and immeasurably enhanced though the bountiful gifts of knowledge, creativity, generosity, human compassion, acceptance of diversity, spiritual joy, enduring faith, and passion for lifelong learning that Sr. Marie Leon shared and instilled within me.

Although I moved on from my faculty position at Viterbo in 2001, I continued to remain in regular contact with Sr. Marie Leon through the years because she had become a dear friend and in so many ways she embodied and exemplified the very best of the Viterbo mission, vision, and values.

Today as I reflect back on the incredible legacy of Sr. Marie Leon and the countless lives of students like me that she inspired and nurtured, I feel truly blessed to know and believe that at least a small but vital part of her spirit and dedication as an educator, artist, and human being lives on in me. Thank you, my dear Sr. Marie Leon, for helping me find my way forward in the spirit of St. Francis. Pax et Bonum.

Dean Yohnk '87
Former student


Sr. Marie Leon pushed, but pushed with compassion. To this day, when I catch myself throwing out an "uh" or "ah" when teaching, I remember her Speech Class. It was a habit she worked hard to help me break. And was largely successful!

Ray Lacina '88
Former Student


In 2013-2014, I was one of recipient of Sister's Marie Leon Scholarship for my Technical Theatre/Costuming dedication. I had the privilege to meet with Sister in private. This small woman "filled the whole room" with warmth and love and I felt surrounded with her wisdom. She was listening to me talk about what I wanted for achievements. Then, she ask me if it was ok if she pray for me. I said that nobody has ever prayed for me or with me. She took my hands into her small, warm hand and looked into my eyes and said: " I see a God in you". I felt my legs go weak, but I could not take my eyes form Sister's eyes. Then she thanked me for coming and sharing. She will be missed by many.

Irina Christel '15
Former student


Sr. Marie Leon was kind, caring and a driving force while I was at Viterbo. I admired her energy and willingness to undertake some very unusual productions in the Black Box Theatre. I believe this was her favorite spot, more than the main stage. In the Black Box Theatre she encouraged her students to use their mind and energy in many creative ways. Thank you Sr. Marie Leon for your encouraging words and care for each one of your students and for never forgetting our names when we came back to visit years later.

Kevin Jacobson '78
Former student


Ah, Sister Marie Leon, leaving us on not only the feast of Saint Joseph, but on the first day of spring as well. Thank you for building such a strong and sturdy department for all of us, and for touching our lives while we were there. Your enthusiasm was always contagious, and you always were ready to nudge (sometimes shove) us back on our feet when we got distracted or lost our way. Thank you for all your beautiful words, your way of making the world make sense, your brilliant smile. We look forward to seeing you at the pearly gates, cheering us past Saint Peter. Love you.

Yvette '97
Former student


Viterbo has lost a true treasure! I taught and choreographed at Viterbo throughout nine years and Sr Marie Leon was always supportive with a smile and twinkle in her eye. I last saw her about 4 years ago and she loved Viterbo - she gave me a tour and dinner with the sisters. She'll be missed!

David K Manion '76-'85
Colleague


I first knew Sister when I was a nursing student at Viterbo majoring in nursing. She and Sr. Grace Clare shared a house and would have students over occasionally and I was invited. When I joined the nursing faculty in 1979 I was privileged to get to know Sr. Marie Leon much better. She loved what she was doing and did it well. Viterbo has lost another one of the great ladies who gave so much to Viterbo in all they did for the school, students and colleagues.

Teri Kunavich '71
Colleague


Thank you, Sr. Marie Leon, for helping me grow into the person I am today.

I first met Sr. Marie Leon when I was in first grade. She and some of her theatre education students offered a creative dramatics class and somehow I ended up in it. That was my first taste of theatre and I was hooked.

Fast forward 5 years - I was in the Viterbo production of Hansel und Gretel in the Gingerbread Children's chorus. We were a gaggle of 3rd-7th graders in the midst of a cast of college students. Sr. Marie Leon had her eye on us. She kept us in line, making sure we had fun, and didn't get too corrupted by the college folk. Very much the stage grandma.

Fast forward another 6 years - Sr. Marie Leon was still at Viterbo and I was a music theatre major. When I auditioned to get into the program she remembered me as the little girl in the creative dramatics class. She was still grandma to everyone in the department.

Fast forward another 6 years - I was discerning becoming an FSPA affiliate. During one of my first visits to the convent I brought my new baby with me since I was breastfeeding still. Sr. Marie Leon and I spent a number of hours together one afternoon reminiscing about shows and friends while I fed Sam. I remember her holding him with such a look of love in her eyes, predicting music would fill his life like it had his mama's. She was right. Still so much the grandma.

I will miss you Sr. Marie Leon. Godspeed.

Krista Clements Orlan '95, '13
Former student


Sister Marie Leon was a great teacher. I had her for Speech Class and truly enjoyed all that I learned from her while attending Viterbo. Later we became friends in our Local Community group as FSPA. She was delightful, as well as deeply thoughtful, prayerful, and challenging in her openness and in her ability to confront lack of consideration of others and re-focus on values befitting persons of faith. And I loved her appreciation of truth, beauty, prayer, as well as her ability to always offer encouragement to persons in all walks of life. She is already dearly missed!

Julie Tydrich, FSPA '72
Former student


I was so blessed and fortunate to have Sr Marie Leon as my 'Franciscan friend' when I was a student at Viterbo. She was always a spirited, warm, kind woman. Sr. Marie loved Viterbo immensely and was always sharing her wisdom and stories with me when I would visit with her. She loved to listen to my experiences as a nursing student and supported me through that whether it was allowing me to ask questions for a class or sharing advice from other sisters that she knew who were former nurses. Even when she moved out to the villa, she never stopped moving, learning and sharing and said it kept her younger! :) She was incredibly generous and loving and I will forever treasure the memories I am blessed to share with her! She is a wonderful woman and God definitely gained another angel yesterday!

Mandy Jo Mlsna '13
Former student


I am so beyond sad. She meant so much to me and my family through so much of our lives. She taught my father in HS, directed him in many, many shows, directed me in my first "major" show when I was 11, and taught me in college when I was in my mid 30's, just to mention a few milestones. I am even the very proud recipient of the Marie Leon LaCroix award. I learned so very much from her at so many stages of my life.

Cathy Conway '96
Former student


Such an excellent teacher and a wonderful person. Rest in peace.

Lori Richardson
Former student


What a great woman and a pillar of the Viterbo community. Her presence was larger than life and her dedication was an example to all of us. God bless you Sr. Marie Leon.

Mike Woodson
Former student


My thoughts and prayers to Sr. Marie Leon's family and the Viterbo family. She was a wonderful teacher and a true example of the spirit of St. Francis. She will be missed.

Frances M. Schultz
Former student


What a beautiful talented lady. She will be missed

Susan Bennett
Former student


She was truly a dynamic presence for many years in the theater department and beyond. May God bless and keep her.

Jeannette Booth
Former student


 I had her as an instructor at Viterbo when I received my education degree. I will miss her presence in this world.

Jo Foellmi
Former student


What a lovely lady. She taught me so much.

Kristin Nelson
Former student


What a lovely lady! She will be missed!

Kathleen Dowse Thesing
Former student


May she rest in peace and enjoy her 99th birthday in heaven today!

Sr. Mary Ann Gschwind
Friend, Colleague


Wishing her a great birthday party heaven with her many loves that went before her!

Sr. Julie Tydrich
Friend, Colleague


Sr. Marie Leon was one of my favorite teachers at Viterbo. I enjoyed her sense of humor and her energetic, forceful personality. I have used my speech/drama minor in more ways than I ever would have imagined!

Vicki Burke
Former student


Remembering a beautiful life like Sr. Marie Leon LaCroix isn't difficult. As a part-time evening student at Viterbo, working full-time, she gave me so much confidence in my life struggles and became great friends. She will be deeply missed.

Nancy Burgett
Former student


I enjoyed taking theater appreciation from Sr Marie Leon, to the point of considering a theater minor. "My dear, theater people are just going to bed when nurses are getting up for their next shift," sage advice, from a sage & inspiring teacher. I remained a nursing major, but found, thanks to Sr. Marie Leon, the world has many stages, some in the staff meetings, community theater & city counsel chambers, etc. Her gifts taught me, not only to appreciate the fine arts, but to find & share my voice in our changing world. God Bless & thank you & so grateful for your gifts in my life!

Maureen Coleman
Former student


It is with great sadness that I hear of the passing of the inspirational Marie Leon, FSPA! She assisted me greatly in expanding my vocal, body, and emotional expressiveness! I recall taking an Interpretive Reading class with her and then being recruited for the Cinderella of Loreland children's production at Aquinas High School auditorium. From there the plays were in the gym until the Arts Center was built.
I was part of the cast for "Cyrano", As You Like It", "Helen Keller" (I was fortunate to play the mother of Helen) and in Reader's Theatre,"Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff".
She would teach during the day and then be in rehearsal at night for the productions. Her dear friend S. Grace Clare assisted her with costumes and was a great support. I remember one time when we were in rehearsal for "Cyrano", I suddenly realized that she was sick with coughing and congestion, and still she was there with her black shawl wrapped around her, giving direction as to how to enhance the expressiveness of the scene.
I won't forget dear Marie Leon and her artistic journey on the earth and how much I learned from her.
Blessings and Peace

Karen Greer
Former student


As a young nun and Speech/Drama minor, Sister Marie Leon took me under her wing. She was such an inspiration. She made it possible for me to remove the habit and become the first nun to perform in a play at Viterbo, as Antigone's sister in Antigone. We became close friends and she arranged for me to attend the University of Texas and receive a MFA in Theatre Arts. Alas, I left the community before that was possible, but her confidence in me and her continued interest in my life and family, I will never forget. She was an inspiring example as a religious and dedicated woman fully immersed in life and being a friend and confidant to so many. Fond memories of her will remain in my heart.

Sandra Naegle Gilge
Former student


While in college at Viterbo it was required for me to take an appreciation class (music, theatre,art), and I chose theatre even though I had no background or interest in the area. Sr. Marie Leon got me to help in the costume design area, and I fell in love with the theatre. Whenever I ran into her at theatre events, especially at Viterbo or the new community theatre, she always took the time to chat. She was a wonderful person who will be missed by many.

Clarice Kammel
Former student


I loved and admired Sister Marie Leon. After taking "Introductory Theater" my freshmen year as a nursing student, I started helping sew costumes for the plays at Viterbo College. I loved sewing and Sister Marie Leon taught me to design and freelance costumes, which I later put to good use when my children needed costumes and outfits for special occasions. Sister Marie Leon taught me to enjoy the moments in life, and to make the most of my time. She enjoyed life to the fullest. During sewing and designing costumes with Sister Marie Leon, it was my time to relax from the stressful days of being a nursing student. Sister Marie had offered to help me design my wedding dress, but my mom was concerned that I would be finishing it on the way to the church, so I bowed out. My mom was probably right. Someday, I know I will meet Sister Marie again in heaven with our Lord. She was a great lady

Lynette (Trocinski) Berg
Former student