Remembering Sister Mary Lonich, 1924-2018

Sr. Mary (Marie Thomasine) Lonich
Sr. Mary (Marie Thomasine) Lonich

We remember with gratitude the life of Sister Mary (Marie Thomasine) Lonich, who was a Sister of Notre Dame for 71 years.  She died peacefully at Mercy Retirement and Care Center in Oakland the day before her 94th birthday.

A proud San Franciscan, Mary was born on January 17, 1924, and graduated from Notre Dame Elementary and Notre Dame High School in San Francisco, San Francisco State and the University of San Francisco. She remained active in the NDSF Alumnae Association. She knew and loved The City, and when visitors came to the Bay Area, she was always one of the best tour guides!

Mary was the oldest of three children in a Croatian-speaking home. She struggled to learn English at school, then helped her younger brother and sister get a head start at home—her first successful teaching experience.

After graduating from San Francisco State and working in the San Francisco Recreation Department, she entered the community in 1946. As Sr. Marie Thomasine, she became a dedicated teacher and administrator in Notre Dame schools in California and Oregon.

She served as principal or vice-principal at Notre Dame Elementary, San Francisco, at Dolores School in Santa Barbara, Mt. Carmel in Redwood City, and Sacred Heart Salinas and, for a time, as Notre Dame’s Supervisor of Elementary Schools. Two of Sr. Mary's favorite assignments were her 10 years at St. Joseph Elementary in Alameda, and 12 years at Sacred Heart Elementary in Saratoga, being in both places for many years, she came to know well the parents of her students, many of whom are still in touch.

"Aunt Mer" with a nephew and grandnephew.
"Aunt Mer" with a nephew and grandnephew.

Saratoga was also her first opportunity to live close to her family. Called “Aunt Mer” by her young grand-nephews, she delighted in everything about them. She read to them, assisted with their research projects, and encouraged in them a curiosity about the world.  Andy and Ryan made themselves at home in the convent and were welcomed there as part of the community. Sr. Mary’s niece writes that she remembers the pride in the boys' voices as they told their friends at school that the Vice-Principal was their "Aunt Mer."

Sr. Mary appreciates beauty in all its forms.

A special joy for Sr. Mary was the opportunity to travel to Croatia in 1982. She learned more about her family background there, and practiced speaking and writing in Croatian.

Outside of the classroom, Sr. Mary shared her exceptional artistic, culinary and gardening talents in numerous ways; she had a great sense of beauty and proportion—in choosing colors, arranging flowers or a room, in setting a table or in cooking and serving food. She read the latest cookbooks and was able to make things grow, even when no one else could. She shared her gifts with the community at the Notre Dame Province Center in Belmont the past fourteen years, before moving to Mercy Retirement and Care Center.

Sister Mary Lonich with two of her grandnephews in 2016 at her 70th Jubilee celebration.

Sr. Mary was well-loved, and will be deeply missed by her sister-in-law, Connie Lonich, her beloved niece and nephews Mary J. Lonich, Michael (Lisa) Lonich, Keith (Deborah) Bauer; grand-nieces and nephews Andy, Ryan and Michael Lonich, Jennifer and Cameron Bauer, and by many long-time friends, former students and her Sisters of Notre Dame.

Mass will be celebrated on Monday, January 29, at 11:00, at the? Notre Dame Province Center in Belmont. Interment at 2:30 p.m. at Santa Clara Mission Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, 1520 Ralston Avenue, Belmont, CA 94002 or online.

“Beauty is at the heart of God, and the beauty that we see – and even create –
is like the trailing wake from God’s hand across the ocean of the universe.
This is why, in attending to beauty, we become open to the mystery of God.” 

– Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki


Click here to give a donation in Sister’s honor.


  1. I remember Mary when she was still in College .She use to come over to NDSF and would play tennis with some of us….She was a great tennis player ! We all had many "fun" days with her and she shared her expertise with us. At that time there were three of us, Lucile (Sr. Claire Steven} Jackie (Sr. Mark Carmel) and occasionly Sr. Loretta joanne. Good memories.
    Dolores Seda

  2. Living right across the street from the Lonich family gave our family the opportunity to get to know Sister Mary/Aunt Mer in a comfortable and friendly way. Most of my friends knew her through her professional role at Sacred Heart School. For us, he was just simply a pleasure to be with. She had a presence that made you want to get to know more about her. She was someone you wanted to listen to and hear from. She was friendly, kind and very loving. It was obvious how much her family meant to her. It is hard to imagine the world with out Sister Mary, she will be deeply missed.

  3. Sister Mary was always so lovely and showed a sincere interest in me. This was significant because we never lived together and didn't know each other well. When I made vows in Redwood City where she was the principal of Mt Carmel, she went to great lengths to accommodate the event and did all she could to help with the celebration. She seemed to age gently and beautifully, an inspiration indeed! I will be present in spirit at her services. Karen

  4. Sr. Thomasine was my first grade teacher and principal at St. Joseph's Elementary School in 1976. I'm so saddened to hear about her passing. She was a tough cookie and I remember as a little 6 year old being terribly scared of her. But as I grew, I got to know her more and became less scared of her and saw just how loving she is. She left an impact on me and she is one of the educators who helped shaped me in who I am today. Thank you, Sr. Thomasine, for your years of dedication to us…your students. We appreciate you.

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