Carlene Unser, FSPA

Nov. 29, 1920–April 26, 2017

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Sister Carlene Unser, FSPA, 96, died on Wednesday, April 26, 2017, at Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare, La Crosse, Wis. She was in the 77th year of her religious profession.

Sister Carlene, the daughter of Charles and Helen (Pease) Unser, was born on Nov. 29, 1920, in Eau Galle, Wis. At her baptism she was given the name Dorothy Bernadine. Dorothy attended Chase Hill School for grades one through eight. Her father was determined his children would get some Catholic school education. Therefore, Dorothy became a boarder at Sacred Heart School, Lima, Wis. for two years of high school. Dorothy entered St. Rose Convent on Aug.t 15, 1936.

Dorothy was received into the novitiate on Aug.9, 1938, and was given the name Sister Carlene. She pronounced first vows on Aug. 12, 1940, and made final profession on Aug. 9, 1946.

Sister Carlene received a B.A. in art from Viterbo College (University) and an M.A. in education from Marquette University. She did post-graduate studies in Illinois, California, Arizona, and Guatemala. Sister Carlene served as a first and second grade teacher in elementary schools for 26 years: Roselle and Carroll, Iowa, and Mosinee, Dodgeville, Boyd, and La Crosse (St. Wenceslaus), Wis. The last 30 years of her career were as art instructor at Viterbo College, serving as chairperson of the department for 10 of those years. Sister Carlene was one of the three FSPA at the time instrumental in designing the Fine Arts Center at Viterbo University. In 1996 Sister Carlene retired in La Crosse.

Sister Carlene was an outstanding artist, proficient in many media. She was a devoted iconographer, writing about 80 icons since she started with a group in Eastern Europe in 1998. Sister Carlene’s art appeared in numerous exhibitions, professional activities, and commissioned works. She received numerous awards for her teaching and her artistry, including Teacher of the Year and the S. Helen Elsbernd Award from Viterbo University. Up until a few months ago, Sister Carlene was still weaving and making quilled greeting cards for the St. Rose gift shop.

Community members, family, and friends remember Sister Carlene as a compassionate and caring friend, someone who had a smile and words of encouragement for everyone. She loved teaching; her students remarked how she was able to find the beauty in everything and everyone, and draw it out of each one of them. Her Franciscan community meant the world to her; she often said that because of her Franciscan heritage she could help young people see the beauty of creation and all around them. Reflecting on her many years in community, Sister once said, “I am grateful for every minute. I have been blessed spiritually, educationally, and in many other ways. My heart is filled with gratitude.”

Sister Carlene is survived by her Franciscan community, many nieces, nephews, grandnieces, and grandnephews. She was preceded in death by her parents; four brothers: Donald, Kenneth, Floyd, and Charles; and three sisters, Sister Carola, FSPA, Catherine (May) Szklarski, and Lorraine Bauer.

Friends may call after 3:15 p.m. on Monday, May 1, 2017, at St. Rose Convent, La Crosse. A wake service will be held at 6:30 p.m. in Mary of the Angels Chapel that evening. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, May 2, in the chapel. Burial will be in Gate of Heaven Cemetery, La Crosse.

Schumacher-Kish is assisting with the funeral arrangements.

Memorials may be sent to Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, 912 Market Street, La Crosse, Wisconsin, 54601-4782.