Sister Thèrésa Martel remembered

Robin Caudell, The Press-Republican, Plattsburgh, N.Y.
·7 min read

Apr. 23—PLATTSBURGH — The late Sister Thèrésa Martel (Marie-de-Saint-Michel) loved teaching and her religious life of 74 years with the Sisters of Charity of Saint Louis.

Sister Thèrésa, 94, founder and director of Our Lady of Victory Secretarial School, passed away March 31, 2021 at the Maison Louise-Élisabeth in Lévis, a private retirement home in Quebec, Canada.

The Sisters of Charity of St. Louis will be holding a Mass offered for the repose of the soul of Sister Thèrésa Martel on Sunday, June 27 at 10 a.m. at Our Lady of Victory Church in Plattsburgh.

Sister Alberte Piche, General Superior, and members of the General Government, stated:

"Dear Sister Thèrésa,

You who vibrated in the joy of serving and giving, like a friendly star, you took the way of love. Yes, it is effectively love which made you take the traits of an energetic, organized woman who knew how to plan without wasting time. You marked numerous generations particularly during your 51 years in the States.

"You never looked for honours, nevertheless your God permitted you to receive many worthy praises for a life given in the educative mission in Plattsburgh.

"You used your competence for the service of the collectivity and it was greatly appreciated."


Originally from Quebec City, Sister Thèrésa served the Diocese of Ogdensburg more than 50 years and served as Superior and Provincial Superior.

In 1948, she received a degree from the Normal School of the State University of New York.

She went on to study business education at the College of Saint Rose in 1966.

She earned a master's degree in secretarial studies at Marywood University in 1974.


The Loretta Business Institute, conducted by the Religious Sisters of Mercy, was transferred to the Sisters of Charity of Saint Louis in 1958 and became Our Lady of Victory Secretarial School, according to a North Country Catholic article.

It was accredited both on the state and the national levels.

The school attracted a unique cross-section of students, not only from New York State and Vermont but also from Canada and many other foreign countries.

In 1958, Sister Thèrésa helped found Our Lady of Victory Secretarial School here that had previous iterations as the Loretta Business Institute and Plattsburgh Business Institute.

"Secretaries now have more voice in management," she stated in an article written by staffer Ken Klepper in the April 27, 1984 edition of the Press-Republican.

"Public relations is now considered a much more important part of their job. They do not just type and take dictation, but also act as assistant to the manager."

More than 3,000 graduates completed the two-year curriculum that transitioned from manual typewriters, "ditto machines," and four-row keyboarding to keyboarding, word processing, state-of-the-art office machines and computers.

Sister Thèrésa served as the school's chief administrator until the institution closed in 1993.

She was the only nun on the faculty of seven.

"I have mixed feelings," Martel, 67, said Sunday of her impending retirement in an article written by P-R staffer Mitch Rosenquist on March 1, 1993.

"But just like the Bible says, there's a season for everything."

When the last 60 graduates walked during the 35th Our Lady of Victory Secretarial School graduation exercises, she stated:

"We're celebrating achievement. We don't cry. We're celebrating 35 years of services to the business community."


Sister Thèrésa was active in the Business Teachers of New York State and Business and Professional Women.

She was the 1985 Businesswoman of the year.

She served as chair of the City Ward Re-Districting Commission.

For 19 years, she held a position in the administration of the Plattsburgh Public Library.

She was president of the New York State Association of Private Commercial Schools.

In May 2001, Sister Thèrésa received Senator Stafford's nomination as a New York State "Woman of Distinction."

In his speech, Stafford said:

"I am proud to honor Sister Thérèse as a woman of distinction, and even more proud of the reputation that has been recognized by her loved ones, her colleagues and her friends."


The history of the presence of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Louis in the North Country began a century ago in the area then known as "Fox Hill" in South Plattsburgh, according to a North County Catholic article.

Father Desjardins, pastor of the newly formed parish of Our Lady of Victory, started his search for religious women who would take over the education of its children.

Following his persistent requests, five sisters arrived from Canada on August 10, 1910 to open and take charge of a building which in its early years served as church, school and parish hall.

This school was called Académie Notre Dame des Victoires / Our Lady of Victory Academy.

In 1915, when the church was completed, renovations were done in the convent to receive boarders in addition to day students.

Today this building is "Victory Place," an independent living facility.

Memories of Sister Thèrésa Martel by Sisters of Charity of St. Louis in Plattsburgh:

"When we think of Sister Thèrésa Martel, we think of her as a prayerful woman, a perfectionist, a jovial person, a dedicated and very successful teacher.

"She loved nature and took pride in caring for decorative plants. She enjoyed the outdoors and took long walks (often walking to St. Peter's for morning Mass to fit her schedule).

"Sister Thèrésa was always busy and energetic and always found time to help others. When it came time for tax returns, she was there for those who needed her expertise.

"She enjoyed reading and listening to music in her spare time. After her 51 years of teaching, may she now rest in peace."

Online condolences may be offered at

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The Secretarial School like Sister Thèrésa is remembered by her former students and colleagues who posted their memories online.

Sharon A. (Lyons) Bogdan:

"My condolences to the family and friends of Sister Theresa Martel, with her passing on March 31, 2021.

"We knew her as Sister Michael when I enjoyed 'campus life' as a boarder and student at Our Lady of Victory Secretarial School.

"Sister Michael taught me the importance of communication, following rules and the art of practicing kindness each day. In April 1996, with two months left until graduation, Sister offered me the opportunity to fulfill the President's request for a temporary position at his bank...the only stipulation, I'd have to continue my studies. "Coupled with my Mom's encouragement, I accepted, which proved to be one of the best decisions I've ever made. :)

"Life as secretary, intertwined with following God's will, has brought me to the inner peaceful existence I feel today. "Thank you Sister Theresa Martel. I am forever grateful.

Trusting Jesus,


Estelle Dion Lapham:

"I had Sr. Martel as a teacher at Our Lady of Victory Secretarial School. She was well known to have the best students graduate from all her programs.

"The businesses in Clinton County wanted to hire them for they knew only the best came under her leadership and guidance. She was, by far, the best teacher in the secretarial field (medical, legal and executive).

"I kept in touch with her over the years during the Christmas Holidays. When I got married, what a surprise when I saw Sr. walking up the aisle to receive Holy Communion!

"I was so touched by her presence and warm, beautiful smile. We shared a friendship that I will always cherish. She even had an Italian dinner at my home to meet my family which had grown to five at the time!

"Rest In Peace Sr. Martel . . . God has inherited an angel! Please watch over me and my family.



Jamie Lawliss Burdo:

"I had the opportunity to attend OLVA Secretarial School back in the 70's. What a great teacher Sr. Martel was! "I thank her for the many wonderful years I had in my career. May God bless her!"

Oliver N. Blaise, Jr.:

"I spent 8 years in the seventies as a business education teacher at Beekmantown Central School. The members of the business education department took a great deal of pride in our students. Sister Martel often told me that our students who went to OLVA were the best prepared students that she worked with.

"I always valued Sister's comments because of the respect and admiration I had for her. She was the consummate professional. I still think of her when I reflect on my career. Thank you Sister for all that you did for kids, and for making me a better professional."