Sister Marita Anne Marrah, a longtime speech pathologist, died July 6 at age 87.
Born Shirley Ann Marrah in St. Louis, she had a severe cleft lip and palate. At age 22, her speech problems made it difficult for her to find a job in the secretarial field for which she had trained, so she worked cleaning offices until she learned of a program at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center.
Glennon physicians were developing a prosthesis for patients such as Shirley who had speech difficulties even after numerous surgeries to correct the issues. With her prosthesis, Shirley’s speech had improved so significantly over the two years of treatment that she was able to become an insurance claims adjuster.
She never lost her gratitude toward Cardinal Glennon and the care that made her success possible. In 1959, she entered the Sisters of St. Mary. She received the name Sister Marita Anne and professed final vows in 1967. She earned a bachelor’s degree in 1966 and master’s degree in 1968 in speech pathology, both through Saint Louis University.
For about 41 years, she paid forward the grace she received from those doctors and speech pathologists at Cardinal Glennon by serving as a speech pathologist at Cardinal Glennon, teaching young children to speak intelligibly. From 1994-98, she was a supervisor there. She loved teaching children to talk and helping them feel good about themselves — and helping their parents understand and deal with the complexities of their problems. “Glennon gave me a new life, the gift of being able to speak intelligibly — a gift which I have been able to give back to the many, many children I’ve been privileged to work with,” she said.
In 2007 she began serving on the FSM leadership team. In 2011, she began working with the Jefferson County CASA, advocates for foster children, helping to direct the program. In 2018 she received the National Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Association’s Award of Excellence for her work in fundraising, strategic planning, budgeting and mentoring.
Sister Marita Anne loved nature walks and the spiritual renewal involved in caring for the earth. She enjoyed playing cards and games with family and friends; listening to music, especially band concerts in the park; keeping in touch with friends, family and people who are lonely.
A Mass of farewell will be celebrated in the chapel at The Sarah Community in Bridgeton at a future date. A private burial was to take place at Resurrection Cemetery in St. Louis.