Sister Rita Marie bechel, FSPA
Sister Rita Marie Bechel, FSPA, 97, died Wednesday, November 2, 2022, at Villa St. Joseph, La Crosse, Wis. She was inn the seventy-seventh year of her religious profession.
Sister Rita Marie was born the eighth of 14 children to Mathias and Emma (Dettling) Bechel on March 6, 1925, on a farm near Plum City, Wis. At her baptism she was given the name Marie Magdalen. As a toddler, Marie would follow her mother around the kitchen and in the garden, picking berries, plums, grapes, whatever was in season. She attended the newly erected St. John’s School. She and her older sisters walked to school and enjoyed the flowers and nature along the way. Marie never knew two of her brothers: Raymond died of jaundice shortly after birth and Vernon was kicked by a horse when he was seven. Early in life she had the desire to become a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration like her older sister, Sister Leone. On August 15, 1939, after graduating from eighth grade, she fulfilled that desire.
Marie was received into the novitiate on August 12, 1943, and given the name Sister Rita Marie. She made first profession of vows on August 12, 1945, and final profession on August 5, 1951.
She was an elementary school teacher the majority of her active religious life, teaching grades 1 through 4. She completed her bachelor’s degree at Viterbo College (University) with a major in education and a minor in music. She also attended the Theological Institute at St. Norbert’s College over the course of several summers. She taught in Calmar, Mallard, St. Lucas and Balltown, Iowa and La Crosse from 1945 to 1962. Next, Sr. Rita Marie taught at Holy Family School in Ashland, Wis. (1962-1966), then St. Henry School in Eau Galle, Wis. (1966-1969). Her teaching ministry continued at St. Paul School in Mosinee, Wis. (1969-1977) and St. John the Baptist School in Plum City, Wis. (1977-1982). After a one year stint at St. Rose Covent cafeteria, Sr. Rita Marie moved to Villa St. Joseph where she assisted in many community service roles, such as receptionist, sacristan, organist. She continued there as sacristan until 2015 when her health declined. Her final days of retirement were at Villa St. Joseph. Community members, family and friends remember Sister Rita Marie as a naturally curious person who asked a lot of questions and read many books on a variety of topics. She had a hunger for knowledge. Sister Rita Marie developed her creative talents by crocheting, embroidering, cross stitch, crewel, and recycling greeting cards. She enjoyed the Bright Star theatre and La Crosse Symphony performances at Viterbo University. Until 2010 Sister Rita Marie had neither taken a pill, nor been hospitalized. She attributed her good health to the daily walks/runs to the hermitages located on the Villa property. Playing cards and putting jigsaw puzzles together also gave her great pleasure. Her family was very important to her. She could name everyone in her family down to the third and fourth generation.
Sister Rita Marie is survived by her Franciscan Community, her sister-in-law Bernardine Bechel, Plum City, Wis., her brother-in-law Bill Biesterveld, Mondovi, Wis., her niece sister Ronalda Hophan, FSPA and many other nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, six sisters: Sister Leone Bechel, FSPA, Marcella Bechel, Lucille Bechel, Agnes Bechel, Rosalie O’Brien, Rita Biesterveld; and seven brothers: Clarence, Raymond, Vernon, Norbert, Lawrence, Eugene and Casper.
A prayer service was held Monday, November 7 in Mary of the Angels Chapel. The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated in the chapel on Tuesday, November 8, at 10 a.m. Burial will be in Gate of Heaven Cemetery, La Crosse. Schumacher-Kish Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.
Memorials may be sent to Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, 912,Market Street, La Crosse, Wisconsin 54601-4782.