Obituary: Sister Rosalie Deck / Teacher, private voice coach
Share with others:
Ever cheerful and devoted to music, Sister Rosalie Deck could not keep from singing or teaching others how to raise their voices in song.
While growing up in Beechview, her baptismal name was Mary Ann and she was the eldest of the Deck Five, singing with her four siblings for seven years on a popular KDKA Radio program during the 1940s called "Starlets on Parade."
She was born in Fort Wayne, Ind., into a musical family. Her father, Ferdinand, played first chair clarinet in the Fort Wayne Symphony Orchestra and worked as a special representative for IBM for 35 years. Her mother, Gladys, was a singer and voice teacher. The family sang together often.
Sister Rosalie died Friday at age 83 at The Lourdes Center of Providence House in Kingston, Mass. She had Alzheimer's disease.
The Deck family moved to Pittsburgh in 1943. Initially, Sister Rosalie attended St. Francis Academy in Castle Shannon, then transferred to an academy run by the Sisters of Divine Providence in East Liberty. She entered the Sisters of Divine Providence in 1947; her sister, Rosemonde, also entered the same religious community.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Sister Rosalie earned a bachelor's degree in music education and a master's of music degree in vocal performance at Duquesne University. From 1950 to 1953, she taught music at St. Alphonsus School in Springdale. For the next two years, she taught at Divine Providence Academy in East Liberty. After a year of teaching at St. Mary's in Glenshaw, she returned to Divine Providence Academy.
Sister Rosalie and Sister Rosemonde appeared on a live music appreciation show broadcast from WQED's television studio.
In the late 1950s, Sister Rosalie moved to New England, where she taught for nearly 40 years at Sacred Heart High School in Kingston, Mass. She gave private voice lessons and also directed choruses and special ensembles.
Sister Rosalie and Sister Rosemonde sang at a private Mass for Pope John Paul II in October 1982. Their brother, Richard, a Franciscan priest, the Rev. Marion Deck, concelebrated the Mass. The two nuns were close friends of the Rev. Patrick Peyton, an Irish Roman Catholic priest who founded the Family Rosary Crusade after World War II.
The duo sang in seven languages, including Hebrew, and also played the guitar. They performed at concerts all over Europe, including Italy, Germany, Austria, France and Ireland. They also sang in Israel, Mexico, Canada and the Philippines. Together, they made five recordings, including "A Little Bit of Heaven" and "Songs to Cherish."
"Their father was their agent. He arranged their tours through Europe, which was most unusual for people who lived a religious life," said Sister Mary Traupman, a longtime friend and Sister of Divine Providence who lives in Brighton Heights.
Dolores "Dolly" Deck, who lives in Redondo Beach, Calif., said the Deck children had lots of time for music lessons because in that era there were no televisions. For the "Starlets on Parade" show, they rehearsed on Wednesdays, returning to the KDKA radio studio on Saturday mornings for the live, half-hour show.
"We all carried the natural harmony so we trained our ear to be able to sing. We could hear a tone and sing a third or a fifth down the musical scale," Mrs. Deck said.
Besides Dolores Deck and Sister Rosamonde, who lives in Kingston, Mass., Sister Rosalie is survived by her brother, the Rev. Marion Deck of Ebensburg, Pa., and a sister, Virginia Deck of Unity, Wis.
Viewing is on Monday from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. at Providence House and a funeral Mass will be celebrated Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. in the Sacred Heart High School chapel in Kingston, Mass.
First Published November 11, 2012 12:00 am