Century Club: Sister Mildred Boeh helped her cohorts cool off

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If you attended St. Veronica School or Mount Gallitzin Academy in Beaver County or Nativity, St. Bernard or St. James schools in Allegheny County, you may have had Sister Mildred Boeh as a teacher.

Sister Mildred, who taught at 14 schools over nearly 60 years, turned 100 on Monday. At barely 20 years of age, she began at St. Veronica in Ambridge in 1933 and retired as the last sister teaching at Holy Name in 1992. She was never afraid to get her hands dirty or feet wet. She spent Saturdays wading with the boys of Mount Gallitzin, a boarding school.

"We would go over the hill out back, way up to the creek," she says. "I took off my shoes and socks, pinned up my habit and petticoat and waded in the cool creek with the boys. I enjoyed every bit of it."

More than 80 years ago as a North Side teenager, she rang the doorbell of the nearby Annunciation Convent and asked the nun who answered, "What are you women all about?" She became Sister Mildred (Ildephonse) Boeh.

Her feistiness served her well when she and five other sisters were sent in 1957 to St. Paul of the Cross in Atlanta to open a school in an African-American parish. She served as principal and teacher and lobbied for three years to the Mother Superior so that the nuns serving in the South could trade their heavy black habits for lighter, cooler white habits. She finally succeeded when a new Mother Superior took office.

With a donation from her Aunt Mary, she purchased enough yards of white linen at JC Penney's in Atlanta to make six white habits. She ripped apart her nightgown to make the pattern.

"On the first Sunday in September, we walked down the aisle for Mass in our white habits, and one of the parishioners said, 'You look like angels from heaven,'" she recalled.

Sister Mildred also set a fashion trend when she insisted that the sisters buy white shoes to match their white habits -- a move that also raised the eyebrows of the Mother Superior.

In the classroom, Sister Mildred employed an effective discipline measure -- a bottle of holy water. When students misbehaved or argued, she would hand them the bottle and send them out to the hall.

"I would tell them to bless themselves, pray about it and come back into the room when all was settled," she said. "I didn't have to say a word. I just handed them the bottle."

After retiring from teaching, Sister Mildred's volunteer spirit was extended to Villa St. Joseph where she visited residents, and to the Congregation's Development Office where she wrote "thank-you" notes in elegant penmanship.

Sister Mildred's prays daily -- in the afternoon and evening. "I pray for my family, my friends and my enemies. I pray for those who are sick, sad and lonely. And I pray for the fallen priests."

On Sunday, friends and relatives celebrated with Sister Mildred at the motherhouse. Because her favorite foods are hot dogs from the Brighton Hot Dog Shoppe, the owner donated 400 hot dogs (cheese and chili, too) for the celebration.

If you or a friend or a relative recently turned 100 or will soon do so, the Post-Gazette would like to hear from you. To be included in Century Club, send the honoree's biographical information and your phone number to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Century Club, Attn: Kevin Kirkland, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222. Fax: 412-491-8452. E-mail: kkirkland@post-gazette.com.



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