In Memoriam

Sister Barbara Hengesbach, OP (Agnes William)


Beginning in the mid-1920s, the south side of Lansing, Michigan, was home to the Hengesbach family: Harold and Irma (Mikulaschek) and, as the years went on, four daughters: Barbara, Anita, Elaine, and Shirley.

Harold was born in the small town of Westphalia, Michigan, a largely German-Catholic community twenty-five miles northwest of Lansing. His family moved to Lansing when he was sixteen, and it was there, at a party, that he met the daughter of Ludwig and Fanny Mikulaschek.

The Mikulascheks and their daughter were immigrants from Sarajevo, which at that time was part of Austria-Hungary. Ludwig served in the Army there, and when his enlistment was complete he could either re-enlist or return to Vienna to manage the family sugar-beet business. As Barbara told the story in her autobiography:

Neither choice was too appealing and stories of “streets paved with gold” in the land across the Atlantic sounded more interesting. Ludwig and Fanny Mikulaschek and their only child came to America. Mother was four years old at the time. The young family lived in New York for awhile and then made the move to Lansing, Michigan. Grandpa got a job at Oldsmobile. He never did find the “gold,” but he was happy earning an honest living for his young wife and beautiful daughter.

Read more about Sister Barbara (pdf)

make a memorial giftMemorial gifts may be made to Adrian Dominican Sisters, 1257 East Siena Heights Drive, Adrian, Michigan, 49221. 

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Avatar  Sarah Milligan 10 months agoReply

Sr. Barbara was a beautiful, vibrant, intelligent, wise, witty, strong and loving woman who lived the mission of the Dominican order to the fullest while serving God with all of her heart - making an everlasting mark on this world through her life's example.

I had the great blessing of having her as my teacher at St. Mary Magdalen in 5th grade, as well as my social studies teacher from 6th-8th grade - which was from 1984 - 1987. She was absolutely the best teacher I ever had.

In later years (about 15-20 years ago), my mother put me back in touch with Sr. Barbara as she was convalescing at the Dominican Life Center after a car accident. I introduced her to my husband, Dr. Gregg Tyler Milligan, and we all became great friends together.

To sum it up in honor of dear Sr. Barbara - with a quote from my husband: "She was the absolute best of us. You don't find people like that often. She is truly one of 'The Keepers.' "

Words would fail at describing all the fun and love that we shared over these years. The light that shone forth from Sr. Barbara was reflected in her words and actions - not just in those she served as a teacher (though she retired, she NEVER stopped teaching! :) ) and in her Christian service and as a member of the community wherever she was - her apartment complex, her church/parish, Southeast Michigan, her Dominican community, her family, her friends and even strangers. With great grace, humor, a lively mind and spirit - she traversed and helped others navigate life's challenges with strength, hard work, and a focus on God while enjoying all of the blessings given to us and giving back to others.

One of my favorite phrases of hers was: "We do the best that we can as long as we can." That phrase embodied her strong German roots, faith and ingenuity. As a child of the Depression - she would fondly remember the skills her parents taught her, which were to be resourceful and most importantly as happy in the face of adversity as we possibly can be. She loved through and through - her eyes shone when talking of her parents, sisters, nieces, nephews, and all the children of her family - of course right alongside her Adrian Dominican family - and the extended family she built of friends, students, and those she surrounded herself with throughout her life.

We have so many funny, sweet and great stories that will hug our hearts forever to remember her with, while reflecting her wonderful example in our own lives and helping to pass along those great teachings to others.

At every turn she had sweet and endearing characteristics that were so 'Barbara' - like her love for her Michigan State Spartans (being from Lansing - it was built into her!), her pride in her Resurrection High School senior class mascot (I remember, the Monarchs!); she loved Glen Lake (Big and Little) where her family's property was; she loved all holidays and decorating; she loved our Blessed Mother Mary and the month of May honoring her; she had a gigantic rosary in her fifth grade classroom and all kinds of decorations for the kids to play with, and in her later years her apartment was always decked out for any and all holidays and seasons. She was an avid gardener at her parents' cottages and brought that skill to bear later at her Hazel Park co-op housing where she maintained the grounds and battled squirrels and rabbits :). She taught herself how to use the computer and email - and with her laptop - she leveraged technology to send funny notes, pictures, encouragement and stay in touch with her friends when not writing letters. She kept the US Post Office in business; her very careful budget was used for legions of stamps!

Speaking of budgets - something she took immense pride in was keeping careful watch of her own accounting books and spending - and being able to give the Dominicans back something at the end of each year out of her allocation - she would be bursting with pride at the end of her year when she could write that check back to the Dominicans! :)

Anyone that knew her knew how much she loved 'The Dollar Tree' - but was adamant to frequent only that Dollar store chain, because - as she would tell you - everything was truly $1.00 - at any other Dollar store chain, the prices were above $1.00 which she felt was outrageous!

Her personality was a brilliant burst on this earth and God gave us all a great and wondrous gift with her life with us.

We love you Sr. Barbara and know you are dancing in Heaven with all that love you both gave and received and are now in God's arms forever.

Dr. Gregg and Sarah Milligan

Avatar  Oneida 10 months agoReply

Sister Barbara was a sweetheart, we lived at Hazel Park Manor. She always said a blessing for out dinners. She always ask about my husband and tell me she would say prayers for us both. She always had a smile on her face. God has gained a beautiful soul. ❤💔❤

Avatar  Lisa Gigliotti 10 months agoReply

Sr. Barbara, May you shine in the Light of God. God bless you for the patience and steady hand with which you guided us at Dominican High School in the 70's.

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