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Wednesday, August 5, 2020


Toronto, Ohio Nun Falls Victim to 1918 Pandemic

            Toronto, Ohio is truly the Gem City because it’s streets are jeweled with hundreds of banners depicting photos of its military heroes.  Its annual Independence Day fireworks display is arguably the best in the Upper Ohio Valley.  And the city erected the first ever World War I monument November 11, 1919.

            If you look closely at the bottom of the southwest side of this masterpiece by artist Giuseppe Moretti, you will see the name of Sister Mary Jean Conner.

Mary Jean Conner front row first on left.
 Perhaps Sister Mary Jean’s sacrifice has special meaning today, 102 years later—2020—a year of a 

pandemic, because this Toronto, Ohio native succumbed to a pandemic, the Spanish influenza.

Full Military Funeral

            The first peak of this deadly 

disease occurred during October of 

1918 and infected 20-percent of 

the US military, overburdening the 

country’s medical system.  Volunteers 

were needed and many orders 

of nuns filled this void, including the 

Sisters of Loretta, to whom Sister 

Mary Jean, a St. Francis Church 

parishioner, was a novice.  Although 

training to become a teacher, she and 11 other Loretta nuns arrived 

at Fort Zachary Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, the largest training facility in the country with as many 

as 64-thousand soldiers at one time within its combines.


  The sisters, wearing their white long-sleeved robes, tended to the soldiers stricken with the Spanish 

influenza, performing such duties as taking vitals, cleaning wounds, administering medicine, providing 

general comfort and writing letters to the patients’ families—all under the direction of the American 

Red Cross.

            Four Loretto nuns became stricken with the Spanish flu, including Sister Mary Jean.  She succumbed to the pandemic 29 years of age, a casualty of war, October 28, a mere 16 days after arriving as a volunteer at Camp Taylor, less than two weeks before the war ended.  She was given a full military funeral at Camp Taylor and later buried at the Loretto Community at Nerinx, Kentucky.

            The Loretto Order was the original order of nuns at St. Francis Assisi Church in Toronto, later 
Sister Mary Jean's Funeral Procession.

replaced by the Ursuline Nuns in 1948.

            The Spanish influenza was estimated to have killed 675,000 Americans.
Loretto Compound Grave.

(related articles: See "The Nation's First World War I Monument)


Unknown said...

Never knew this thanks Bob I love your stories!

Unknown said...

Never knew this thanks Bob I love your stories!

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