Sister Elizabeth of Providence
Everywhere she has been, Sister Dorothy Zimmer has been a gracious, welcoming presence. She is remembered for smiling warmly as she spreads God’s love to all she encounters.
She was born June 7, 1918, into a farm family in Glentana, Mont. Hers was a religious family whose three girls and three boys attended summer vacation school taught by sisters of various religious communities and catechism classes after Mass on Sundays. Family members studied the scripture and recited the rosary at home together.
After graduating from Opheim High School in Opheim, Mont., she enrolled in nurses’ training at Columbus Hospital School of Nursing, where she met the Sisters of Providence. Among her teachers there and early influences were Sisters Frances Maureen and Mary Bede.
Entry into novitiate surprised no one
A year ahead of her in nurses’ training were Sisters Ethel Richardson, Claudia McMillan and Peter Claver, who also encouraged her vocation, as did parishioners at the church her family attended. She graduated from nurses’ training in 1939 and then worked for a year at the county hospital in Glasgow, Mont., and for three years at hospitals in Merced and Oakland, Calif. Given her background, it came as no surprise when she entered the religious community’s novitiate at Mount St. Vincent, Seattle, in 1945. She took Sister Elizabeth of Providence as her name in religion.
Sister Dorothy’s first mission was at the old Sacred Heart Hospital (now Sacred Heart Medical Center) in Spokane, Wash., where she served a year of night duty, working on the medical, surgical and obstetrical floors. Her loving nature and calming presence served her and patients and their families well over the next 30-plus years as she provided care as a supervisor or pastoral associate in a range of hospitals, including Holy Family, in St. Ignatius, Mont.; St. Patrick, in Missoula, Mont.; and Providence, in Wallace, Idaho.
Ministered to parents, others
Sister Dorothy served nearly a decade as a pastoral visitor in St. Raphael Parish in Glasgow, where she spent time with Catholic residents of Valley View Nursing Home, a Lutheran facility where her habit made her instantly recognizable. Her own parents had become residents of the nursing home while Sister Dorothy was taking care of them in Glentana with the permission of her superiors. She continued to be with them there while visiting with other residents, praying with them and assisting in weekly services.
Asked once why she continued to wear the habit traditionally worn by Sisters of Providence in the past, Sister Dorothy replied, “People appreciate who I am because I wear my habit. Some have said, ‘Oh, I’m so glad you haven’t changed.’”
In 1996 she retired from Glasgow to Mount St. Joseph, Spokane. Today she resides at St. Joseph Residence, Seattle.