Sister Bertha Marie Kloser, OSF, 100, died on Wednesday, December 17, 2014, at Clare House.
Bertha, the first of eleven children of Albert and Lucy (Riniker) Kloser, was born on June 8, 1914, in North Buena Vista, where her father served as the local postmaster for 42 years from the front room of his home in town. The family also farmed, and all the children helped with the many farm chores. She attended the local “little red school house” through 8th grade.
In January, 1932, while employed at Loras College, Bertha had a Franciscan friend translate into German a letter she then copied and sent to her father. His response gave her his permission to enter the convent. Since she hadn’t gone to high school, he told her that before she entered she should get the assurance that she could go; because afterward she would be bound by obedience should her request be denied. He tells her to remember to pray for her family, and never to tire of performing good deeds. He was also delighted to receive her letter written in formal German script.
Bertha entered Mount St. Francis on August 15, 1932, and was given the name, Sr. Bertha Marie, at reception. After first profession on August 12, 1936, she taught primary grades for 38 years at the congregation’s schools in Iowa at Bancroft, North Washington, St. Catherine, Haverhill, Mapleton, Sacred Heart in Dubuque, and St. Anthony’s Home in Sioux City; and in Chicago at Corpus Christi and Midlothian, where she spent 19 years. She retired to Dubuque in 1974.
Bertha heeded well her father’s advice. Friends and neighbors hold a lasting memory of her concern for people who were poor or sick. When she left Midlothian, co-workers presented her with a check for a trip to Disneyland, but they said, “We’d better watch to make sure she doesn’t give it all away.”
In her own simple way, Sister was a missionary. An article in the Telegraph Herald said, “She visits the sick, lonely, old and poor; plays piano; teaches; and plays bridge and other games with shut-ins. … She stays with people in need, stands in line to collect commodities for shut-ins and shops for them, too. She used to ride the Keyline bus delivering commodities – it took two days – but now a friend drives her.”
She felt a special call to lead the rosary at wakes and attend funerals. All the local funeral directors and many people she encountered along the way provided transportation for her. She was equally at home at a political rally or a yard sale, and she talked freely to everyone. When her health failed, she moved to Holy Family Hall in 1995.
Sister was preceded in death by her parents and her brothers Albert (Germaine) and Joseph; her sisters: Florence (John) Hefel, Frances (Ray) Steffen, Loretta (Al) Freiburg, Louise; and her brother-in-law, Otto Bjorneby.
Sister is survived by her sisters: Ann Bjorneby and Marie (George) Pluemer; her brothers: Herman (Tillie), and John (Rita) and her Franciscan sisters with whom she shared 80 years of her life.