John Thomas Hackett, BVM, 94, died Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, at Marian Hall in Dubuque, Iowa. Visitation will be from 9–11 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 16, 2016, in the Marian Hall Chapel followed by a prayer service at 11 a.m. Funeral liturgy will be at 1:30 p.m. Burial is in the Mount Carmel cemetery.
She was born in Sioux City, Iowa, on Jan. 22, 1922, to John Thomas and Mary Marguerite Flynn Hackett. She entered the BVM congregation Sept. 8, 1940, from St. John Parish, Sioux City. She professed first vows on March 19, 1943, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1948.
John Thomas was an elementary and secondary school teacher in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at St. Patrick ES and LaSalle HS, where she also served as assistant principal; and in Chicago; Butte, Mont.; St. Paul, Minn.; and Seattle. She later volunteered in Cedar Rapids.
She is preceded in death by her parents; brothers Charles, John Thomas, Gerald and Robert Lawrence; and a sister Mary Frances Marriott. She is survived by a sister, Helen Elaine Costello, Manchester, Mo.; a sister-in-law Marilyn Hackett, Sioux City, Iowa; nieces; nephews;and the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with whom she shared life for 76 years.
Sister John Thomas Hackett, BVM
Marian Hall, Dec. 16, 2016
Good afternoon and welcome to the celebration of life of our Sister John Thomas Hackett.
Anna Bernice Hackett was born on Jan. 22, 1922, in Sioux City, Iowa. She was the fifth of seven children, four boys and three girls, born to John Thomas and Mary Marguerite (Flynn) Hackett. Her father worked as a railroad conductor while her mother cared for the children. Anna attended St. Joseph Grade School, graduated from Cathedral High School, and completed one year at Briar Cliff College, all in Sioux City, before answering the call to the consecrated life.
Anna entered the congregation on Sept. 8, 1940, and received the name John Thomas upon her reception on March 19, 1941. She professed first vows on March 19, 1943, and lived 76 years as a BVM.
John Thomas taught in elementary schools for 21 years, including Holy Family and St. Thomas of Canterbury in Chicago; Immaculate Conception in Butte, Mont.; and St. Patrick in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She was missioned as a secondary teacher at Our Lady of Peace in St. Paul, Minn.; Cathedral in Chicago; Blanchet in Seattle; and LaSalle in Cedar Rapids. History was her preference but as a versatile teacher, John Thomas always rose to the occasion no matter the subject she was assigned to teach. The students loved her and many stayed in contact with her after graduation.
Besides serving as the assistant principal during her 15 years at LaSalle, John Thomas taught economics and government, moderated the student council and cooked for herself and the sisters with whom she lived. Being highly organized, she completed food preparation before going to school and was able to put a hot meal on the table within a half hour of returning home. Leftovers never went to waste but were creatively transformed into new and delicious dishes.
The Cedar Rapids Gazette featured John Thomas in its “Neighborhood Cook” section which included her recipes for favorite dishes like ginger cookies, candied violets, Irish soda bread, Irish brown bread, “special” (made with bacon grease) baked potatoes, and tasty chicken breasts. “I like to put together a party dinner,” she said. “Cooking for 30 people is no big deal when you have a stove with ten burners.” At the time of the interview, she had 100 crepes tucked away in the freezer.
John Thomas was a lifelong learner, an avid reader with an appetite for history and current events. As a contributing writer for the 1984 Salt publication Charting BVM History, she covered the years 1968–72, a period filled with tremendous tensions and great opportunities. While serving as a BVM senator, her perceptive questions and comments enhanced the dialogue at Senate sessions. After retiring from teaching, she volunteered as a docent at the Cedar Rapids National Czech & Slovak Museum and even helped with the initial clean-up after the devastating 2008 flood.
Her love of history naturally flowed into an interest in genealogy. Both of her parents were of Irish decent. Some of her mother’s ancestors were the first settlers to arrive in central Iowa where they established the Murphy Settlement, while others, disenchanted with New York City, continued on to Australia. John Thomas was very proud of her Irish heritage and was blessed with several opportunities to visit Ireland. She also traveled to Australia to personally connect with relatives.
John Thomas was a realist, even tempered, willing to “go with the flow” and graced with a good sense of humor to help weather the rough spots. She never learned to drive, but that did not stop or even slow her down. After learning of plans to turn an old hotel in Cedar Rapids into a shelter for homeless women and their children, she quickly jumped on board helping to convert the rooms into apartments. She gave away household items such as pots and pans to people who lost everything in the flood. Two of her favorite pastimes were working in her flower garden in Cedar Rapids and being involved with the craft group, “Cut-Ups,” after moving to Mount Carmel.
In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul writes, “If you give to charity, do so generously; if you are a leader, exercise your authority with care; if you help others, do so cheerfully. Your love must be sincere.” How beautifully this describes John Thomas! Clothed in generosity and sensitivity, she was a dear, loving and ever so gracious woman. We—her BVM sisters, friends, and beloved family—were as precious to her as she was to us. Everyone who knew John Thomas loved her.
An unattributed quote discovered in her Bible conveys an appropriate reminder for all of us. “With their last breath, those we have greatly loved do not say goodbye, for love is timeless. Instead, they leave us with a solemn promise: when they are finally at rest in God, they will continue to be present to us whenever they are called upon.” Along with Mary Frances Clarke and all our beloved deceased, we know you, John Thomas, are present among us and we thank you.
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