Sister Marie Lucille Summers, a member of the Sisters of Bon Secours who became known as "Sister Smiley" for her infectious positivity as she dedicated her life to serving the sick and elderly, died Thursday of a heart attack at a hospice facility in Marriottsville. She was 87.
For Sister Summers, a nun for 60 years, that service was a daily calling, and she derived a deep joy from it that she said kept her motivated.
"Every day is full of special moments when my services are helpful to someone," she said in a Bon Secours biography.
Born May 21, 1930, on a tobacco plantation in Baden in Southern Maryland, Marie Lucille Summers was the daughter of John Francis Summers and Lucille Augusta Mudd Summers.
She was the great-granddaughter of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, who set the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. (She enjoyed telling people about her family's history, friends said. Dr. Mudd was posthumously exonerated.)
Sister Summers, one of six children, was raised Roman Catholic and sent to school in Baltimore. She was introduced to the Sisters of Bon Secours while volunteering in the X-ray department of the hospital they had founded on the city's west side. She joined the congregation in 1948.
Sister Summers earned an associate's degree in medical records from the Bon Secours Hospital School of Nursing in 1954 and worked as a nurse and medical records technician in the pharmacy, emergency room and radiology departments of Bon Secours facilities in Baltimore; Grosse Pointe, Mich.; Darby, Pa.; and Miami and Port Charlotte, Fla. She took her vows to become a nun in 1957.
In 1966, Sister Summers moved to Florida, where she spent 21 years serving the elderly at the Villa Maria Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Miami. She later became coordinator of customer relations at St. Joseph Hospital in Port Charlotte, Fla., and a board member for the hospital's foundation and its hospice and community AIDS organization, CHAPS.
In her customer-relations role, she helped devise a training program for volunteers aimed at enhancing patients' hospital experience.
Sister Summers volunteered for three years as coordinator for the front lobby and outpatient areas of Peace River Hospital in Port Charlotte. She also was a member of the Sisters of Bon Secours congregation's vocation team and served as liaison for the Florida-area Sisters and Associates.
Sister Kathleen Moroney, lived with Sister Summers in Florida after moving to the United States from Ireland. She said she was was gracious and welcoming to an outsider learning her way in a new country.
She described Sister Summers as smart and organized, and said she insisted on keeping the finances for their home.
"She was so kind to me, helpful and understanding," Sister Moroney said. "She always had a smile on her face. She always had kind of a giggly laugh. Everybody loved her. She loved people. ... She never let people feel less than what they're worth."
At Christmastime, Sister Summers would make sure the support staff, laundry workers and other low-level employees received gifts, Sister Moroney said.
We must look after the people behind the scenes, she told Sister Moroney.
She enjoyed crocheting and gardening in her free time, Sister Moroney said. Sister Summers put a few plastic pink flamingos in the yard to spruce it up. The next day she and Sister Moroney went outside to find that an anonymous neighbor had added dozens more — a prank that sent them both into fits of laughter.
Sister Summers' fun-loving attitude and ability to see the good in people made her a valuable member of the Bon Secours community, said Sister Rose Marie Jasinski, country leader for the Sisters of Bon Secours USA.
The Morning Sun Newsletter
Get your morning news in your e-mail inbox. Get all the top news and sports from the baltimoresun.com.
At a festival in Port Charlotte, Sister Summers joined other Bon Secours nuns in dressing up as clowns for a parade.
"I think she brought a real sense of joy," Sister Jasinski said. "Even though things could get tough or difficult, she had a deep sense of joy in her life. It was a deep sense of joy within her and a love of what she was doing."
A funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday at the Sisters of Bon Secours Chapel at 1525 Marriottsville Road, Marriottsville.