Sister Eileen Marie Koehler spent her last hours the way she lived her many faithful ones: praying with her Sisters.
Koehler, a Dominican Sister of St. Dominic of Amityville for 81 years, died June 10 at age 96 at the Motherhouse. She had been in poor health for years, Debbie DeRupo, a Motherhouse spokeswoman, said.
Her health didn’t impact her spirit, said Sister Pat Duffy, a close friend of Koehler’s since 1973. Koehler, known for her gracious and warm presence, was ready and accepting of the end of her life, Duffy said.
During their last conversation, Koehler told Duffy while looking at a picture of the Good Shepherd that Jesus was what life was all about. Koehler added that she would be OK, Duffy said.
Duffy said many people remember how Koehler never missed a birthday or anniversary, remembering to send cards and thank-you notes even to those who only gave her a tissue. Older people, children and animals gravitated to Koehler because of her kindness, Duffy said.
Koehler loved daisies and vanilla ice cream with strawberry toppings, but she had a “particular devotion” to Jesus, Duffy said.
“She was the most gracious lady you will ever meet,” Duffy said. “She was kind, concerned about other people. She was very grateful for everything.”
Born Sept. 16, 1919, she moved with her family to Ozone Park, Queens, to Rockville Centre, according to the order. Koehler pursued a religious life as a teenager after being inspired by the kindness of the sisters at St. Ignatius in Rockville Centre, where she grew up. After graduating from high school, Koehler joined the Dominican Sisters in Amityville and received her habit within a year. Formerly known as Marie, she became Sister Eileen Marie on Aug. 13, 1935.
During her time as a sister, Koehler worked as a teacher in schools across Long Island: Corpus Christi in Mineola, St. Catherine of Sienna in Franklin Square and St. Ignatius in Long Beach. Koehler also functioned as the principal of Notre Dame in New Hyde Park for about six years.
About age 50, Koehler was called by the head of the Motherhouse to work as a superior at St. Rose Convent in Melville. A few months after the call, Koehler learned that the congregation was selling the property, which served nearly 30 retired sisters.
Called to move to Amityville, the sisters rallied together to celebrate their time at St. Rose, which served as a hub for many sisters in nearby communities. Koehler helped frame the trip as an adventure and pilgrimage to help ease the transition for many of the sisters, Duffy said.
For the next five years after moving, Koehler worked at the Motherhouse, welcoming visitors and setting the foundation for new activities such as a crafts fair. Later, Koehler moved on to work as a secretary for the sisters and retired in 2003.
Koehler was predeceased by five siblings, including a twin.
A Mass was said Tuesday, followed by burial in the sisters’ cemetery in Amityville.