August 3, 1924 — July 29, 2013
Sister Mary Elaine Tarpy was the daughter of an Irish father and a German mother from whom she inherited the strong characteristics of each nationality. This was demonstrated in her attention to the smallest details whether that of the arrangement of a room or to place settings on a table. On another level, she had an ever expanding heart that was concerned for any detail that could contribute to the comfort and pleasure of anyone who entered her area of responsibility. Elaine, daughter of David and Amelia Tarpy, was born in Columbus on August 3, 1924. David, straight from Sego County, Ireland, was full of Irish charm and humor; Amelia, from Stuttgart, Germany, had a strong, practical approach to the intricacies of everyday life. Together they gave their daughter the enduring charm of Irish-German descent.
Elaine was the thirteenth child born to David and Amelia. Eight of these children, including two sets of twins, died in infancy. As a result, she grew up as the youngest in the family with three older brothers and three older sisters. Elaine began her Christian Journey when she was baptized August 31, 1924, at St. Aloysius Church. Later, when she was a student at St. Mary Magdalene School, she was confirmed on May 10, 1933. Sister Mary Elaine liked to recall that her family lived a mile from the school: so she walked a mile to go to school, two miles to go home for lunch and to return to school, and another mile to return home at the end of the school day. Four miles of walking each school day! That was quite a schedule for a young student.
Sister Mary Elaine also cherished the memory that it was at the time of her First Holy Communion that she sensed that God was inviting her to become a religious sister. This idea persisted through her high school years at St. Joseph Academy in downtown Columbus. It was there that she met the Sisters of Notre Dame in a different way. Her older sister, Marie, was already a member of that Congregation so this was not an entirely new experience for her. What was NEW was the experience of personally interacting with these SNDs whom she came to appreciate and admire in a new way.
During Elaine’s senior year of high school, Pearl Harbor was bombed December 7, 1941. This deeply affected the Tarpy family since her three brothers were conscripted into the army. With so many leaving home at one time, Elaine postponed her entry into religious life. On January 6, 1943, the great day came for her to begin her long and varied career in Notre Dame. In August of that year Elaine received the habit of a Sister of Notre Dame and the religious name Sister Amelia in honor of her mother. (She was known by this name until 1968 when the Sisters were given the option of resuming the use of their Baptismal names.) Two years later, on August 13, Sister pronounced her first vows. Soon after this she began her long and varied service in the ministry of education and leadership.
Sister Mary Elaine began her teaching career at St. George School (now known as Corryville Catholic) in Cincinnati, Ohio. From 1946 to 1953 she taught grades 3,6,7,8. Next she went to Holy Cross School in Columbus, Ohio, to teach grades 5/6 for the year 1953-1954. Her next stop was St. Victor School, Calumet City, Illinois. There she taught grade 8 for three year, 1954-1957. Then it was back to Ohio to St. James School in the city of Wyoming for another three year term with eighth graders, 1957-1960. After this she returned to St. Victor School as Principal/Superior for 1960-1963.
After these years of close involvement with education on the elementary level, Sister Mary Elaine began an eight year term as Community School Supervisor, 1963-1971. Following this, she moved to Rome, Italy, where she served as the General Secretary for the Institute and as the Coordinator of ARC (Apostolate of Religious Community). This was a program of study in scripture and theology for English speaking sisters from various Congregations which was held in Rome 1971-1980.
After her service in Rome, Sister Mary Elaine returned to the States as Director of the Office of Life Development / On-going Formation 1981-1987. Following this, she was asked to return to Rome for short time service. From August to November, 1994, Sister Mary Elaine assisted the General Leadership team to locate living and office space in preparation for moving our Generalate. She was able to find and to recommend renting space with the Religious of the Good Shepherd in their Generalate facility. This proved to be a good location, thanks to Sister Mary Elaine’s expert advice and locating skills.
Finally, Sister Mary Elaine returned to the States to Columbus, Ohio, where she continued her service to assist in Province and Congregational matters from January to August 1995. She remained in the Columbus area for the next nine years, 1995-2004, as the active Convener of Notre Dame Associates of the Columbus area. In 2005, Sister Mary Elaine returned to Mt. Notre Dame in Reading, Ohio, to enjoy quiet time in the ministry of prayer. However, true to her nature, she was not idle! One of her delights was being involved in the Adopt-a-Sister Program of near-by Mt. Notre Dame High School. In this program groups of students are matched with sisters at the convent for regular get-togethers. The sister and girls in each group determine the agendas for their meetings. Sister Mary Elaine took great delight in being with the girls and sharing her rich background in many ways. Even after graduation, some members return to visit with Sister Mary Elaine to share their on-going life experiences with her.
This is only a short summary of Sister Mary Elaine’s full and active life. Now she is enjoying the unending rewards of a life of dedication to the needs of those she served. To borrow from the Liturgy of the feast of the day she went into the presence of the Lord, we can pray: that after serving Christ in others “may she merit to be received into the halls of Heaven.”
Sister Alma Grollig, SNDdeN