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Sister Margaret Smith dies at 88, remembered as 'Angel in White'

Sister Margaret Smith dedicated 62 years of her life to God. She's referred to as "angel in white" by patients and as "trouble" by her friends. (Enterprise photo)

News began to travel throughout St. Joseph's Area Health Services Monday morning. Sister Margaret Smith, who dedicated 62 years of her life to God and his healing mission for the people of the Park Rapids service region, died Sunday.

Her death came only eight months after moving to the Sisters of the Crookston Diocese to retire.

Despite heavy hearts, tears and hugs the pulse of care at St. Joseph's continued to address urgent needs of patients.

The work Sister Margaret and a handful of nuns from the Crookston Diocese initially established in 1946 was being carried out at every turn in St. Joseph's. Often referred to as an "angel in white" by patients and affectionately referred to as "Trouble" by many of her friends and co-workers, Sister Margaret spent her lifetime dedicated to St. Joseph's mission.

As St. Joseph's President/CEO, Ben Koppelman says, Sr. Margaret embodied St. Joseph's core values: reverence, integrity, compassion and excellence.

She never missed a day of work in her 62 years.

Chapel dedication

Accompanying the hustle of patient treatment was the hum of a vacuum in the nearby hospital chapel. Having just undergone renovation, the chapel awaited final decorator touches including a special plaque denoting its honorary title: The Sister Margaret Smith Chapel.

St. Joseph's planned to surprise Sr. Margaret with a big reveal during a return visit in conjunction with the upcoming building project and renovation open house on June 14.

Chaplain Hachfeld said that while everyone has been saddened upon hearing the news, her memory also stirs some powerfully uplifting images as well.

"The moment we feel deeply sad, we recall many stories of how Sister could brighten any room simply by walking through the door," he says. "She was a gift to this community, the hospital, and her sister colleagues. She touched so many peoples' hearts during her years here."


Sister Margaret was a New Year baby, born Jan. 1, 1921. She was the first in her Belgium family of nine (all deceased) to be born in the U.S. Upon entrance to the Sisterhood, she took the name of Sr. Marie Gertrude and later took back her birth name once that was allowed.

She worked to help open St. Joseph's Hospital in 1946. She did everything that was asked of her from changing beds to keeping the furnace going. She worked in lab, imaging, surgery, and even served as administrator.

Prior to her leaving Park Rapids, Father Dennis Wieland of St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church said, "Her heart radiates the compassion of Christ for the sick and suffering. Her warm smile helps others to know their dignity as a human person. Anyone who has met Sister Margaret walks away having had a wonderful experience of God's love."


A prayer service will be held for Sister Margaret at 11 a.m. Friday, April, 24 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception located at 702 Summit Ave. in Crookston. Visitation will immediately follow the prayer service followed by a funeral Mass at 2 p.m.

An ecumenical service celebrating the life of Sister Margaret will be from 1 to 2 p.m. Friday, May 1 at St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church in Park Rapids.

An obituary will appear in a future edition of the Enterprise. Information will be posted on St. Joseph's Web site at