Rosemary J. McKenney Custom Obituary
Rosemary J. McKenney passed away peacefully on December 12, 2020, at the age of 97 to conclude her unwavering journey of faith and service to others, leaving a legacy of family values and community involvement that lives on through subsequent generations.
A lifelong learner who worked a full-time job before it was common for women to do so (much less a mother of five), our mother shared her talents and abilities with extended family as well as those she encountered in parish and professional settings. Rosemary was a devout Catholic who never missed a Sunday Mass or Holy Day. She kept a rosary and a prayer book at her bedside, and was extremely active in the St. Alphonsus Parish community in Greendale for nearly 60 years.
Born November 16, 1923, in St. Anna, Wisconsin, to Theodore and Clara (Wollner) Dickrell, Rosemary was a 1941 graduate of P.J. Jacobs High School in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. She was too young to attend nursing school in the middle part of the state at that time, so her father enrolled her in the Marquette University College of Nursing in Milwaukee, from which she graduated with a BSN in 1945. She was admitted to the Cadet Nurse Corps upon its founding in 1943 and served stateside during WWII.
Our mom married the love of her life and our dad, Gerald E. McKenney, on September 4, 1948, at St. Leo Catholic Church in Milwaukee. They enjoyed more than 50 years of marriage until his passing in 2002. The family home was located adjacent to church property, making it convenient for our parents to assist with a variety of activities and take advantage of all the parish had to offer. Mom’s volunteer duties ranged from serving as a hall monitor when her kids attended St. Alphonsus School to coordinating the parish’s senior program for 13 years until 2009. She was an active participant on numerous parish committees for nearly 60 years.
“St. Al’s has offered many experiences and much spiritual guidance,” Mom wrote. “It has provided many opportunities to grow in faith and to be of service where needed.”
Our parents’ personalities complemented each other, and their teamwork provided a great example for us kids. Dad was a gregarious Irishman who was a natural salesman in his role with Miller Brewing Co., while Mom was a consummate professional and the quiet German matriarch of the household. There was no budging Mom on her rules, but we knew we had a chance with Dad while Mom was away at work.
Mom would prepare dinner in the morning, do her housework, and after taking a nap, head off to work for the 3-11 p.m. shift at St. Joseph Hospital and later St. Francis Hospital in Milwaukee. Mom was a critical care RN for 26 years, after which she was an active volunteer at St. Francis and for the Milwaukee Health Department. She continued to perform blood pressure screenings and was a CPR and medic first aid instructor well into her seventies.
Our parents were extremely family-oriented, and they regularly included extended family members for holidays and celebrations. They demonstrated their compassion when our father’s brother and his wife passed away at a young age. Our parents would travel around the United States to help family members with whatever was needed in their lives. Cousins on both sides of the family were always part of family gatherings, and we were blessed to be exposed to these values.
Survivors include five children: Kathleen (Rod) Leadley, Green Bay; Patrick (Patty), Green Bay; Kevin (Lin), Brookfield; Dennis (Debi), La Crosse; and Colleen (Michael) Welnetz, Loredo, Texas; along with grandchildren Allison, Robert, Theresa, Kelly, Matthew, Kaitlin, Colin, Ryan, Christopher and Bryan.
As he was dying, our dad made us promise that we would take care of Mom. That we did, as Mom was able to live in the home they built in 1956 next to St. Al’s until moving into assisted living for the final stage of her life.
A Mass of Christian Burial and internment at Holy Cross Cemetery in Milwaukee will be held at a later, safer date.
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“I asked Mike to write an obituary for my mother. I supplied facts, events, and personal stories, and he used his magical writing skills to create a personalized obituary that will keep my mother’s memory alive in a way that will stand the test of time.” – Kathleen Leadley