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Helen Magdeline Hankerd, born in Chelsea, Michigan, on August 26, 1929, was the oldest of Oleta (Hutzel) and Emmett Hankerd’s seven children. She was followed by, in order, Therese, Mary, Eileen, Paul (known as Bud), Rose Ann, and Jane Cecile.
Helen remembered her childhood as a happy one, and her family was quite close-knit and remained so their entire lives. Sadly, Oleta died in March 1942 when her youngest was born, and Jane Cecile herself died when she was just two years old. Emmett, who owned the Hankerd Pure Oil service station in Chelsea, was determined to keep the family together, even when he had to go to court to ensure he maintained custody of his children. He remained single for two decades until marrying his second wife, Beatrice Doyle, in 1963. Beatrice had been widowed a few years earlier.
Along with her siblings, Helen attended St. Mary School in Chelsea, which is where she first met the Adrian Dominican Sisters. Her high school years were spent at Chelsea High School, across the street from the family home, and after graduation in 1947 she went to work in a local grocery store.
But a long-held call to religious life won out soon enough, even over the scholarship she had been offered by the University of Michigan. In August 1947 she sent a letter to Mother Gerald seeking entrance to the Congregation. “For a long time I have cherished the hope of becoming a Dominican Sister, and now I feel that I am free to fulfill that desire,” she wrote. She was about to turn eighteen, she added, and her two next oldest sisters would both be in high school and able to carry on the work at home.
Read more about Sister Helen (PDF)
Memorial gifts may be made to Adrian Dominican Sisters, 1257 East Siena Heights Drive, Adrian, Michigan, 49221.
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