Sister Ramona Meurer, a Franciscan Sister of Mary for almost 70 years who was a former missionary to Kenya and a longtime Red Cross disaster volunteer, died May 17 at The Sarah Community in Bridgeton. She was 89.
Born in Mankato, Minnesota, she entered the Sisters of St. Mary in 1950. She received the name Sister Mary Johnine, and professed final vows in 1953. (In 1987, the Sisters of St. Mary and the Sisters of St. Francis of Maryville, Missouri, reunited to become the Franciscan Sisters of Mary.) She earned a bachelor’s degree in dietetics through Saint Louis University in 1956. In 1992, she earned certification as an activity director.
From 1958-61 she served as chief dietitian at St. Mary’s Infirmary in St. Louis. She was chief dietitian at St. Mary’s Hospital in Jefferson City, then spent a year as food service coordinator at St. Mary’s Health Center in St. Louis. She also served as chief dietitian at hospitals in Wisconsin and South Carolina. She also was a clinical nutritionist and dietitian and a manager of food service at hospitals in Texas. She designed and built kitchens for St. Mary’s Infirmary and other hospitals.
In 1980, Sister Ramona traveled to Kenya to found the mission there, providing primary health care for women, setting up a program that involved at least 50 people and traveling to all the villages once a month. She served as community outreach organizer, nutritionist and health educator. She helped build homes and schools. From 1983-89, with several other sisters, she worked for the Catholic Mission in the diocese of Garissa. She said she worked with people to bring the dignity of women to a higher level and make their lives more enriching and easier with projects such as water pumps and solar ovens.
Sister Ramona served as a volunteer for the national and local Red Cross in Texas. She served three weeks at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy, then was asked to remain there for another five weeks. She helped in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and she worked with victims of wildfires in California and the Northwest and of floods in Texas and Iowa. She has worked with families in Texas, helping rehab their homes after disasters.
In July 2008, Sister Ramona was scheduled to fly to Denver to receive the Peacemaker Award at the Franciscan Federation meetings. But when Hurricane Dolly blasted into the Gulf area, she instead did the Red Cross work that was her love and mission for decades.
She moved to The Sarah Community in 2013. For many years she helped crochet mats for the homeless, using discarded plastic bags.
Survivors include her four sisters: Sister Jeanne Marie Meurer, FSM, of Bridgeton; Kathryn Foreman of Panama City, Florida; Colette Hinkle of Tampa, Florida; and Mary Lou Pentico of Blairsville, Georgia.
A memorial Mass will be scheduled in the future at the Marian Chapel of The Sarah Community in Bridgeton. Burial was in Resurrection Cemetery.