When gang members and high school dropouts started gathering at Sister Laurice Beaudry’s home in Maple Grove in the 1980s, the neighbors weren’t the only ones who were a little nervous.
One of her relatives asked if she ever felt threatened by the teenagers, some of whom had a history of drug abuse and run-ins with police.
“She says, ‘Well … I look at these people as my family,’ ” recalled her younger brother, Bernard Beaudry of Ames, Iowa. “ ‘Now, you raised your family. I will raise my family.’ ”
Sister Laurice was still taking care of her surrogate family when she collapsed at her home last month. She died of cancer on Nov. 17, just weeks shy of her 85th birthday.
“I don’t know how, at 84 years old, she was able to continue to do all this,” said her niece, Diane Rogers, of Anoka. “Kids would come to her home for assistance and she would help them out.” And up until three weeks ago, she added, her aunt was “still working a full-time job” as a nurse.
Laurice Beaudry was the eighth of nine children who grew up on a farm near Albertville, Minn. She knew exactly what she wanted to do at a young age, her brother said. At age 16, she graduated from high school and became a nun. At 19, she became a nurse. She went on to earn degrees in sociology and communication, and spent 10 years as director of aging for the National Catholic Health Association in St. Louis.
She returned to Minnesota in 1982 to take care of her ailing mother, who lived in Maple Grove. One day, she was cleaning out the garage when a boy noticed her nun’s habit and stopped by to talk. He told her that his mother had left home. Then his two brothers came by, as did some friends.
After that, word-of-mouth spread. By 1995, she won a Virginia McKnight Binger humanitarian award for helping some 1,400 troubled teenagers. “I never asked them to come,” Beaudry said in a 1995 Star Tribune article about her award. “The only hold I have on them is they don’t want to disappoint me.”
She could see that she was having an impact. At least 30 of the teenagers who came to her home had been suicidal; one had even threatened to firebomb his mother’s house. She would offer them food, a place to stay and a sympathetic ear.
Many, now grown, have stayed close to her as adults, her brother said. One, who had been a gang member as a youth, told the family just last month how she had changed his life. “Because of her influence, the gang was dispersed,” her brother said.
In recent years, she started working with homeless families. “She would come up with their rent money and help them find a place to live,” said Rogers. At the same time, she worked as a nurse, caring for critically ill children in their homes.
She was also known for her love of music, and played accordion, piano and guitar. Rogers remembers watching in amazement as her aunt started to doze off while playing piano one Christmas Eve. “You could see her head was bobbing down,” she said, yet her fingers kept going. “I thought, she’s something else, that’s for sure.”
“She was an amazing woman,” Rogers added. “She didn’t care what their lifestyle was. She didn’t judge anyone.”
In addition to her brother, Beaudry is survived by two sisters-in-law, Pat Beaudry and Evelyn Beaudry, and 51 nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held next summer, her brother said, to coincide with the annual family reunion, which Beaudry had spearheaded for some 40 years.
A funeral mass will be in July at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church in Maple Grove.