Sister Lois Tilkes, OSF

Tilkes Lois

Sister Lois (Leola) Tilkes, died on Wednesday, May 8, 2019 at Clare House.

On April 20, 1937, Lois was born to John and Leone (Diederich) Tilkes. Lois was the third child of seven which included Nick, Lawrence, Jeannette, Grace, Carolyn, and Madelyn. Her family lived on a farm in North Washington, IA. They lived a simple lifestyle, but they felt that the family was rich in many ways. On one occasion when her siblings were complaining about not having something they wanted, Lois said to them, “You can’t have everything.” She remembers her grandmother smiling knowingly.

Lois attended elementary and high school at North Washington where she was taught by Dubuque Franciscan Sisters. The children walked to school, and they were encouraged to make a “visit” when they passed by the church. Her mother believed that the family would be blessed each day if one of them attended Mass.

In 1955, Lois entered Mount St. Francis with two other classmates from North Washington. On August 11, 1956, Lois received the name Sister Mary Leola, and on that day her grandmother leaned over and whispered to her, “Now you have everything.” She was known as Sister Mary Leola until 1968 when she returned to her baptismal name Lois.

Sister Lois served others as a homemaker in Iowa at St. Mary’s, Waterloo; St. Joseph, Garnavillo; the Spalding System in Hospers; and St. Francis Xavier in Dyersville. While in Dubuque, she was a homemaker at Holy Trinity, Holy Ghost, Immaculate Conception Academy, Mary of the Angels, and Mount St. Francis. 

The last mission for Sister Lois was at the North American Martyrs Retreat House in Cedar Falls, IA where she was the food service director. The kitchen was in need of an upgrade. The stove had only two burners that worked, an outdated commercial dishwasher, little storage space, minimal cooler capacity, and never enough counter space. Sister Lois once commented, “I enjoy cooking and providing meals for the people who come to the Retreat House, and I look forward to being better able to serve them when the new kitchen is complete.”  The new kitchen must have been up to her standards because she stayed there for 29 years. In 2010 Lois came back to Mount St. Francis, and in 2013 Sister retired to Clare House.

Sister is survived by her sisters: Jeannette Hillegas and Grace Pittman; her brother Nick (Jean) Tilkes; her sister-in-law Florence Tilkes; her brother-in-law Richard Lansing; nieces and nephews, and her Franciscan sisters with whom she shared over 62 years of her life.

Sister was preceded in death by her parents; her sisters Carolyn (Richard) Havel and Madelyn Lansing; her brother Lawrence Tilkes; and brothers-in-law Wayne Pittman, Brian McClure, and Bob Hillegas.

Memorials may be given to the Sisters of St. Francis, Dubuque, IA.