Hearing loss forced Dominican nun Marie Leonilde LaPointe out of her teaching job at age 38, but she found a second career running the U.S. Postal Service offices on the grounds of Dominican institutions.
She continued to be an avid reader of nature literature, and teaching nuns at Molloy College in Rockville Centre would often turn to her for help with biology and other topics, her friends said.
Leonilde died “gently and peacefully” on Sept. 28 at age 93, just days after celebrating her 75th anniversary as a member of the Sisters of St. Dominic, her order in Amityville said.
She was born Gervaise LaPointe on Sept. 16, 1924, in Sherbrooke, in the Canadian province of Quebec.
Her parents and siblings are deceased and the Dominican order said its records had little information about her early life.
Her friend Sister Jean Dominici DeMaria and other nuns said the LaPointe family apparently moved to Michigan a few years after her birth because her father was looking for work.
While she was still a child the family moved to Franklin Square, where young Leonilde explored the creeks and woods of a largely undeveloped area.
After finishing high school, she entered the Dominican Juniorate in Water Mill, and took her religious name, Sister Marie Leonilde on Aug. 4, 1943.
The Dominicans were predominantly a teaching order at the time and she took her first assignment at St. Margaret in Middle Village, Queens.
She later taught at St. Patrick in Brooklyn and Corpus Christi in Mineola.
Her failing hearing forced her out of the classroom in 1962 and she moved to a Dominican facility in upstate Monticello, where she ran the U.S. Postal Service office on the grounds.
She transferred to the Dominican residence on the grounds of Molloy College in Rockville Centre in 1981 and became head of the on-campus post office there.
In the years before her death, she was still getting a modest pension from the postal service, according to DeMaria.
DeMaria was the overseer at Regina Hall, the nun’s residence at Molloy, and she later realized that Leonilde was watching what she was doing, and correcting any mistakes.
“I realize now she was helping me quietly,” Sister DeMaria said. “She was quiet. You wouldn’t even know she was around, but she did everything. She took care of the house. She had wonderful sewing skills.”
But Leonilde was also a bit of a perfectionist.
She once reprimanded — gently — DeMaria for ripping open an envelope instead of using a letter opener.
“And I didn’t know until she told me, but you’re supposed to put the ZIP code on the same line as the address, not below it. And you’re supposed to have the stamp right-side up,” DeMaria said.
Leonilde retired in 2008 and had been living at the Queen of the Rosary Motherhouse in Amityville.
A funeral Mass was held Oct. 2 in the chapel at the motherhouse, followed by burial at its cemetery.