Local businesses remember Sister Gertrude, longtime ‘begging sister’

Local businesses remember Sister Gertrude, longtime ‘begging sister’

Sister Gertrude Crevan, a former “begging sister” with the Little Sisters of the Poor in Pawtucket, died Dec. 19 at the age of 84.

PAWTUCKET – A familiar face to many in the Pawtucket business community died last month.

Sister Gertrude Crevan, 84, a Little Sister of the Poor, died at the order’s residence in Totowa, New Jersey, on Dec. 19. She was buried in Calvary Cemetery alongside her fellow sisters.

Though she lived the last seven years of her life in New Jersey, she resided for more than three decades at the Jeanne Jugan Residence on Main Street, where she fulfilled the role of “begging sister.” Her persistence and dedication to the home’s mission to serve the elderly poor were remembered this month by many who once found themselves on the receiving end of her appeals.

Julie Bullock, niece of former Tracey Gear & Precision Shaft President Stephen Tracey, recalled being sent out on errands for Sister Gertrude during her years working for the family business on York Avenue. Her late uncle had a close relationship with the Little Sisters, she said, and it wasn’t unusual to get a call from Sister Gertrude asking if they could use the company cargo van to pick up supplies she’d successfully begged from area businesses.

“These could be anything from five two-liter bottles of ginger ale from Anthony’s Liquor in Providence to multiple van loads of flats of flowers and plants from all over Massachusetts,” she said. “Her skills were far-reaching and at times mind-boggling. She loved a party, and I can’t count the number of birthday cakes I picked up from bakeries across the state.”

Greg Esmay, owner of The Old Grist Mill Tavern in Seekonk, Mass., said he’d only known Sister Gertrude a few months when she called him upset that the home’s boiler needed to be replaced. The two came up with the St. Patrick’s Day Dinner, an annual fundraiser that will be held in modified fashion for its 12th year this March. Everyone in town knew Sister Gertrude, he said, and it was tough to say no to her for anything.

“It was all for the residents, always. Everything was just about making the residents’ lives so much better,” he said.

Many recalled her carrying around the Yellow Pages, an item she sometimes referred to as her “bible.” Jeremiah O’Connor, a retired Pawtucket Police officer whose mother lived at the residence, said people went out of their way to help Sister Gertrude, and were often blessed with prayers in return. Even among sisters, he said, she was “notorious” for her skills as a beggar.

“She’ll be missed as a person that she was, for the work that she did, and just overall how she embodies what the sisters are all about,” he said.

While meat and produce pickups were regular stops along her begging runs, her persistence didn’t stop at groceries. Michael Gwynn, vice president of sponsorships for the Pawtucket Red Sox, said he was getting ready for a Bob Dylan concert at McCoy Stadium in 2006 when a call came into his office.

“It was Sister Gertrude looking for two tickets to the concert, saying how she loved Bob Dylan and it would be so wonderful if I could get her two tickets for the concert for someone at the Jeanne Jugan Residence,” he said.

The concert was sold out, but after much searching, Gwynn said he managed to come up with the tickets. Like so many others, he said it was impossible to say no to Sister Gertrude.

Mother Patricia Mary, mother superior of the Pawtucket community, said Sister Gertrude was very dedicated to prayer and always prayed for those who donated to the home. She had a particular devotion to Saint Joseph, she said, and was confident in the power of her prayers to bring back what was needed.

“She was a very prayerful person. It wasn’t just asking, she prayed,” she said. “I know she prayed before she asked as well as after for the benefactor. She had confidence in the Lord and the intercession of Saint Joseph as well as the collaboration of so many in the mission of the Little Sisters of the Poor in caring for the elderly.”

The home now has a new collecting sister, Sister Mary Vincent. Mother Patricia added that she expects Sister Gertrude to have more influence than ever now that she’s with the Lord.