A conversation with Sister Angela Hearne, RSHM, The 95-year-old veteran teacher on 75 years at school, growing up in Ireland and going to the church’s retreat house in Tarrytown to lend a hand because “a lot of old people need help”
Sister Angela, could you tell me a little about your background, before you joined the church? I grew up on a horse farm in Ireland, in County Waterford right along by the ocean. I had loved horses. My father was in the horse business. He raised horses and trained them and I was always out there with him. I loved the horses. He would throw me up on the horse’s back, even before the harness was on it. I go home to see my sister Mary every year, she is 96, and I am 95. Yes well, thank God I’m able.
How did you come to Sag Harbor?
I was at Saint Mary’s teaching, and I was just told to move out. I moved to Brooklyn for a year and then I moved out here.
How old were you when you first arrived in Sag Harbor?
I was 17 when I came over from Ireland and it was three years later when I came to Brooklyn, I guess I was 20. I was about 25 when I came to Sag Harbor. And I’ve been here for about 70 years.
Do you remember your first teaching experience in Sag Harbor?
The first few years I was here, I wasn’t teaching I was just sort of in charge of the grade school. We started a grade school when we had the academy – and now it’s Sag Harbor Elementary. That was an all girls school, mostly boarding school. You had little ones boarding, I always felt so sorry for them, six-year-old boarding. I had to be a model to them all – I did – the little ones I felt sorry for them.
When did you begin at Stella Maris?
When we closed the academy in ‘68 and I moved there. I taught the second grade communion class always.
Lots of students have come and gone since you have been here – Do any of them still keep in touch with you?
Yes there are lots of them, and I still see many of them around. They say, “why are you going away?” and I’m not going that far anyway, I’m only going up to Tarrytown. They call it retirement, but I’m not retiring, I’m going up there to help out. Because a lot of old people need help.
While you were working here, how has the education system changed?
They have and they haven’t – I don’t know, children are children no matter what age you have them. I usually work with six and seven year olds. And then during the summer I ran a summer camp. I always kept busy. I’m still busy I go over to the school every day.
Yes, I heard you walk to the school everyday.
Oh that’s no distance. All I do is walk that’s all. I go over to the school and I make coffee for the teachers and then I prepare lunch for the children. We usually have chicken nuggets or pizza. We get the pizza free from the store but I have to serve it.
What will you miss about the students?
Just seeing them enjoying themselves. I love to see children enjoying themselves.
Have you lived here, in the convent this whole time?
I used to live in the academy, and in ‘68 when we closed the school, I moved here. In the same room. And now I’m straightening up and packing.
Have you had many roommates?
We had different nuns, I like company, but this one that I’m going to in Tarrytown, it’s bigger and they are all retired. They are either on crutches or walkers or can’t get out of bed. So I can help them. Sister Christine [Murray] was in an accident about a month ago, and she’s up there. We really haven’t asked her what happened, she was in pretty bad shape, but she is coming along, and she seems excited that I am coming up. I said I will bring you a cup of tea anytime you want it. I know quite a few people that will be there. I used to go on a retreat once a year there. I would spend five or six days up there, I know the run of the place.
Are you excited about the move?
I’m happy about it. Because when the head sister came down to tell me – she started to tell me, and I said, you don’t have to tell me – I was in the chapel praying and the Lord told me why you were coming. He said you are going to Tarrytown. I heard the Lord say that before the superior came to tell me.
How will you say your goodbyes?
I don’t like goodbyes, I’ll pretend I’m not. The school is having a big party for me, but I’d rather do something, just a little thing and then say goodbye to them all. We have two men [teachers] in the school. They hugged me and they kissed me and they said, what are we going to do without you? They are always happy days. I don’t think I’ve ever felt sad.
In Sag Harbor, is there any shop you will miss or your favorite place to eat that you will miss?
I love to walk around the five and ten and pick up little odds and ends. And usually I don’t need them, but I pick them up anyway; like crochet wool. I always like to have something to do, even if its only search words. So that’s my story. I probably have a few more years.