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The small city of Tucumcari, New Mexico, on the eastern side of the state not far from the Texas border, was home to St. Anne’s Parish School, staffed by Adrian Dominican Sisters – and to the Szabo family.
Louis Szabo and Florence Murphy – he of Hungarian descent and born in Alma, Texas, she of Irish extraction and from Clarksdale, Illinois – met in 1927, some years after both families had moved to New Mexico. Florence was a schoolteacher in Miera, New Mexico, when she decided to join a club for Catholic singles, and she and Louis were matched up as pen pals. Three years later, the couple married and settled in Tucumcari.
Louis was a machinist for the Rock Island-Southern Pacific Railroad as well as a farmer. He never finished high school, but he had taught himself how to repair locomotives, how to farm, and how to do electrical and plumbing work. “My dad was a silent, hard-working man who loved nature, had a thirst and respect for knowledge and was known all over this area for his helpfulness, honesty and generosity,” wrote his daughter Eleanora, the future Sister Ann Rozalia, in a July 28, 1980, St. Catherine letter.
Born on August 12, 1932, Eleanora Isobel Szabo was actually the second of twin daughters, but little Rozalia Ann died just five hours after her birth. Delivery took place at home, since the town had no hospital then, so when Florence developed severe complications Louis arranged for her, his sister Mary, and Eleanora to travel by train to Oklahoma City and a hospital there. One of the family’s goats, Bee-bee, also made the trip in a crate Louis made for her, in order to provide milk because Florence was unable to nurse her baby; but as it turned out, Bee-bee was so stressed by the travel that she quit giving milk and “I was a Carnation baby after that,” Sister Ann Rozalia wrote in her autobiography.
Read more about Sister Ann Rozalia (pdf)
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