Sister Mary Ethna Kapfer, CSJ, 102, died Oct. 5, 2020, at St. Joseph’s Provincial House, Latham. She had been a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet for 83 years.
Sister Ethna, the former Dorothy Elizabeth Kapfer, was born in Ilion, N.Y., on April 11, 1918, daughter of the late Carl and Jessie Smith Kapfer. After graduating from Chadwicks Union Free High School, she entered the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in Troy, on March 19, 1937; she professed final vows on Aug. 15, 1942.
Sister Ethna received a bachelor’s degree in science from The College of Saint Rose and a master’s degree in general science from Syracuse University. For 73 years she served in schools in the Albany and Syracuse dioceses — 63 years as teacher and administrator and the last 10 years as a volunteer tutor. In the Syracuse Diocese, Sister Ethna taught at St. John the Baptist School, Syracuse; St. John the Evangelist School, Oswego; and St. Patrick’s School, Binghamton.
Sister Ethna’s father died when the children were young, and she helped to raise her siblings, a responsibility that resulted in an enduring bond of love. Throughout her long life, Sister Ethna enjoyed visiting her family in such places as Chadwicks, Florida, and Colorado. Always ready to travel, she also enjoyed trips to Alaska and the Grand Canyon, taking in foliage tours on a chair lift or cross-country skiing on a frozen lake or sampling an exotic new dish.
Sister Ethna was one of those persons who was perhaps born to be an educator. Her passion, charisma, and warmth combined with her willingness to work tirelessly to create a challenging and nurturing environment. Her own love of learning and engaging personality were enhanced by her strong belief that students generally give to teachers as much or as little as is expected of them! Sister Mary Ethna gave willingly and generously of her gifts of nature and grace, and her gratitude and zest for life will live forever in our hearts.
Sister Ethna is survived by her nieces and nephews and their families: Dr. Carleen Chartier, Kim Kapfer, Carl Kapfer, Sister Mary Bernadette Kapfer, CSSF, Tom Kapfer, Kevin Carroll, and John Carroll; many friends; and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. In addition to her parents, Sister Ethna was predeceased by her sister, Marguerite (Vincent) Carroll; her brothers, Elmer (Teresa) and Vincent (Jane) Kapfer; and her nephew, Brian Carroll, and her infant niece, Mary Kapfer.
Due to the continued health concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be no public visitation or funeral services for Sister Mary Ethna at this time. A Memorial Mass will be scheduled at a later date.