The life of Sister Mary Annella Tracy is a story of a woman who for 60 years selflessly devoted herself to educating children as she devoted herself to God and the Catholic Church.
The chapters of her story are filled with the thousands of lives she touched from Santa Cruz, Calif., to Elgin. Many of those people will gather today to lay her body to rest in what is a sad occasion, but a fitting ending for her life story.
Sister Annella died at the age of 84 Tuesday, the second day of Catholic School Week - the time Catholics set aside each year to celebrate ministry through education.
The nun's story is one that will live on in the halls of St. Edward High School in Elgin, where she was adored as well as feared.
Ruler in hand, Sister Annella could be intimidating with her stern demeanor and flowing habit.
Even students not in her class would peek into the hall before going to the restroom. If they saw her, they would wait for the bell, said Mike Bimmerle, a physics teacher at St. Edward and a former student of Sister Annella.
Now he said he is embarrassed that as a child he detested her authoritative manner. Little did he know that Sister Annella would one day get him a job as a chemistry teacher at St. Edward.
The year after he was hired, she told the head of the science department that Bimmerle was a physics teacher - he just didn't know it yet.
"She was 100 percent right. She picked that up by listening to me teach the freshman class through a wall," Bimmerle said.
Everyone who met Sister Annella has a story to share.
Michele Machowicz, a 20-year English teacher at St. Edward, will never forget the time she put a stop to students bringing water guns to school.
One day a boy carrying his water gun met up with Sister Annella in the hallway. Teachers and students froze, wondering what she would do, Machowicz said.
"She put it on the ground calmly and then smashed it into the ground with her foot. She turned around to me and just started laughing. It was great," Machowicz said.
She then had the student pick up the pieces and throw them away.
"Everybody got the message. There were no more squirt guns," Machowicz added.
Peggy Deichstetter, a biology teacher, remembers a brave thing Sister Annella did in the chemistry lab. …