York Says Farewell to ‘Aunt Vera,’ World-Class Public Servant

The following is adapted from an obituary from Rector-Hicks Funeral Home in Geneseo.

YORK – York bid a final farewell to the public servant who traveled the world but did her best work at home.

Sun Market

Veronica Mary Schwan, or ‘Sister Mary Alena,’ 89, was born Nov. 21, 1927 in Rochester William and Helen Wynhurst Schwan. She attended St. Peter and Paul Grammar School, graduating in June 1941. That fall, she entered Holy Angels Academy in Fort Lee, NJ preparing to become aspirant for the Order of Sisters. From there, she went to the School Sisters of Notre Dame motherhouse in Baltimore, MD for two years as a candidate. She was a novice for one year before professing her vows to become Sister Mary Alena.

Her teaching career took her to many places around the world. Following her first mission teaching at a school near San Juan, Puerto Rico, Veronica was a teacher in Washington, DC, New Hampshire and Rochester, NY. There she worked at St. Boniface, and then at Bishop Kearney, where she traveled to Ireland and Europe with the high school marching band.

In 1969, she left the Order to return home to care for her aging parents. When her father died of cancer in June 1970, she stayed on to care for her mother. She then joined the faculty of Pavilion Central School as a high school Spanish teacher. Through the years, she achieved a master’s degree from Seton Hall University.

She was choir director at St. Lucy’s Church in Retsof, NY where her sister, Martha Curry, was the organist for Sunday mass, holy days and funerals.

Veronica was an outspoken advocate for her community. She was a member of the New York State Board of Regents, the York Fire Company Auxiliary, and the Livingston County and New York State Federation of Republican Women. She was president of the York-Leicester Towners Senior group for many years, and was honored as Senior Citizen of the Year for the Town of York.

Affectionately known as ‘Aunt Vera’ to many in York and to her countless nieces and nephews, Veronica shared her love of life and God with all she encountered. Her generosity and kindness is remembered by all of those blessed to have known her. At church and family gatherings, it was Veronica’s voice that sang the loudest, Veronica’s claps that echoed the longest, and Veronica’s light that shone the brightest. And as designated bingo caller at family picnics she always made sure every niece and nephew won at least once!

Veronica was predeceased by her parents, William and Helen Schwan, sisters Martha Curry and Rose Gartz. She is survived by her brother, Andrew (Shirley) Schwan of York, sister, Helen (James) Babcock of Dansville, many nieces, nephews and cousins.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to St. Luke’s Parish, 13 North St., Geneseo 14454, Livingston County Hospice, 2 Murray Hill Dr., Mt. Morris, NY 14510, or the York Ambulance Fund, PO Box 95, York, NY 14592.

(Photo/Rector Hicks Funeral Home)