Mary Paule Tacke found dead
Cottonwood native Sister Mary Paule Tacke was found Monday, June 16, still in her nun’s habit, floating in the stream near Tyara Village in Libode, South Africa, according to South African news reports.
South African police investigated the kidnapping and murder of Sister Mary Paule who had spent most of her life serving as a humanitarian in South Africa having started orphanages there. A suspect has been located as of the latest reports.
According to the South African Daily Dispatch, She was attacked while driving her car on Sunday, June 15. Her car was found overturned near a village but she was not inside. A 9 mm pistol and cellphone were found in the car. Police were reportedly puzzled about a motive because Tacke’s wallet, money, keys and driver’s license were found in her pockets. There were no visible wounds and police believe she may have been strangled according to the Dispatch. An autopsy was planned.
Last November the Chronicle had a feature article on Sister about her work with the Bethany Orphanage which she founded in 1996. Brenna Riggers of Craigmont and Chalaena Wimer of Cottonwood were also serving as volunteers there at that time. Bethany Orphanage was for abandoned children from infancy to 6 yars old. She later became involved with Thembelihle Home for abused adolescents and teenagers. Before starting the orphanage she worked there for many years as a teacher.
She had a very far-reaching influence evidenced by the tributes on a Facebook site. The article mentioned above also led to the Chronicle receiving calls for information as various news agencies happened on the article on the Chronicle website through a Google search on Sister Mary Paule.
Mark Tacke of Cottonwood is Sister’s last surviving sibling and traveled to South Africa last week along with other family members for the funeral services there. She will be buried in South Africa with a local Funeral Mass set for 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, August 14 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Cottonwood.
Sister last visited Cottonwood in 1995 and Mark and his son Steve last saw her on a visit to South Africa in 2008.
Sister Mary Paule Tacke 82
Our beloved Sister Mary Paule Tacke was tragically taken from us on Sunday, June 15th, 2014 in Mthatha, Eastern Cape, South Africa. Sister Mary Paule was abducted during a carjacking outside of Thembehlie Orphanage. She was loved, admired, and revered by many across several continents.
Sister was born Mary Jo Tacke to Jack and Merlin (Untereiner) Tacke in Cottonwood, Idaho on March 17th, 1932. She was the only girl in a family of 5 boys. Her younger years including her first 3 years of school were spent in Grangeville, Idaho. Her family then moved to a ranch outside of Cottonwood. She attended St. Joseph’s School through the 8th grade. After grade 8, she transferred to St. Gertrude’s Academy. One year prior to graduation, she left Cottonwood to enter the convent. Sister chose the Sisters of the Precious Blood Order because of their missionary work. In 1949 at the age of 17, she traveled by bus to Princeton, New Jersey to begin her life in the convent. She lived there for a couple of years until being assigned to South Africa.
She acquired her teaching degree in South Africa. Then life took her to a remote village where she began her missionary work at Mariazell Mission. It was at this remote village that her teaching career began. She went about her duties on horseback. It was later decided that whites should not be teaching the local children. At that point, she was transferred to Ikhwezi Lokusa, Mthatha, South Africa.
One evening while at Ikhwezi Lokusa, there was a knock at the door. Sister opened the door to find it was the local police with two infants in their arms. The children had been abandoned and the police did not have anywhere to take them. Sister Mary Paule accepted the children. The police continued to bring children to her. In 1955, she founded Bethany Place of Safety a home for abandoned children ages newborn to age 6. This home was located on the grounds of Ikhwezi Lokusa. From 1955 to 2007, she was the director of Bethany Place of Safety. Many of the children over the years have been HIV positive. Because of her devotion, nutrition, and medicine, these children were able to live full lives. In 2007, she was forced to retire as director due to health issues, but continued to be very active in the running of Bethany. During this 52 year span, she helped see that many children were adopted or reunited with family. It did not end there, because she stayed involved in their lives for years to come.
As the children reached age 8, she realized that there was a need for a second home. She then founded Thembehlie Orphanage and a school for children ages 8 to 16. Both Bethany and Thembehlie are still going strong thanks in large part to the generous donations from those in her home town of Cottonwood and others that came to know of her work over the years. In the fall of 2013, she contacted area family and informed them that Thembehlie was about to close its doors due to lack of funding. It was breaking her heart as these children would be out on the street. She was ever grateful for the donations that kept it going strong. After she sent beautiful thank you notes, she was concerned that it might not be enough in letting the donors know of her deep appreciation.
Sister was instrumental in putting countless young people through secondary education. She somehow acquired the money and loaned it to the students. Her persuasiveness was a strong character trait. You soon learned that you did not say, “No to Sister Mary Paule. It was this persuasiveness and foresight that led many locals and volunteers from other countries on to a fulfilling life. She was able to convince many to pursue their calling in life. It is to her credit that there are many doctors, nurses, teachers, and social workers both from South Africa and many other countries.
Sister Mary Paule was very quiet and humble about her work. However, several have said that she was secretly active during apartheid. Some tell how she literally saved their lives by helping them to escape South Africa during the apartheid years.
Sister Mary Paule was a long time board member of the Social Welfare Commission. This is an interdenominational group made up of clergy, medical professionals, and others. Their mission is to help local residents. Among their many projects, the two dearest to her heart were Thembehlie and Bethany Place of Safety, the orphanages.
This was not Sister Mary Paule’s first experience of a carjacking. A few years ago, she was entering a mall. A young man approached her and asked for her car keys. She said, “Young man, do you have a gun?” He responded, “Yes, Granny, I do!” At this point she handed over her keys. She walked into the mall and got assistance. They took her to the police station. Upon entering the police station, she walked up to the desk and said, “Sir, I would like to report that a young man called me GRANNY!” Her sense of humor and beautiful smile were ever present.
Her most fulfilling moments in life were when she was with her “precious children.” Tireless in her advocacy for those less fortunate, especially children, she was active till her last moments. She had just been to Thembehlie to visit the children and was leaving when the carjacking occurred. All who loved her are thankful that her last hours were spent doing what she loved most.
Sister Mary Paule Tacke ( Mary Jo) was preceded in death by her parents, brothers: Raymond (Pat), Tom, Bill, and Jack.
She is survived by her brother, Mark Tacke of Cottonwood, ID, many nieces and nephews. Along with these relatives she is survived by all who loved her so dearly and had the fortunate experience to meet her. The people touched by her life span many continents. As one volunteer to her orphanage said, “Have you ever known one person whose life touched so many across so many continents?”
Thank you Sister Mary Paule for sharing your life with all of us. We hope to be better people and help others because of the role model you were to all who knew you.
It was Sister’s heartfelt desire to be assured that the orphanage be financially secure, so that it would continue for many years. The family suggests that memorials be made to the “Sister Mary Tacke Donation Fund.” It may be accessed at any Wells Fargo Branch. Donations may also be made to the Sister Mary Tacke Donation Fund and mailed to Mr. Mark Tacke, PO Box 583, Cottonwood, ID, 83522.
A memorial Mass for Sister is planned for Thursday, August 14th at 10:30 AM. The mass will be at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Cottonwood, ID.