Sister Dorothy Klingele, longtime Providence nun, dies at 90

The Everett Herald

By Julie Muhlstein

Everett’s original Providence Hospital had a work force of 14 — three lay people and 11 Roman Catholic nuns. That was in 1905, when the hospital was run by the Sisters of Providence. Sister Dorothy Klingele built upon that legacy of service in Everett.

A Sister of Providence for 64 years, Sister Dorothy Klingele died Oct. 15 at St. Joseph Residence in Seattle. She was 90.

Her death came less than a month after the passing of Sister Georgette Bayless, another Sister of Providence. The co-founder of what became Providence Hospice and Home Care of Snohomish County, Bayless was 94 when she died Sept. 25.

The loss of Klingele, who retired from Providence Regional Medical Center Everett at the end of 2007, marks the end of an era for the hospital.

Lisa Daly, senior manager of communication for Providence Health & Services Northwest Washington, said there are no longer any Catholic sisters who are “a daily presence in the facilities that provide care” in Washington. One nun, Sister Mary Beth Carson, serves on a Providence community board in Everett, Daly said.

In 1951, Klingele entered the Sisters of Providence Novitiate in Seattle. Her tenure here started in 1953, when she became lab supervisor at Providence Hospital. When she retired, her title was Sister of Providence representative to the administrative team at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.

Klingele was first a scientist. A Yakima native, she was a medical technology graduate of Seattle University. She earned a doctoral degree in developmental biology, with an emphasis on genetics, from the University of Notre Dame.

Tim Serban was director of mission and spiritual care at Providence in Everett when Klingele retired. “She’s an explorer of science and genetics. She’s brilliant,” Serban told The Herald in 2008.

“She was special,” said Leanne Sharp, who worked at the Providence Pacific campus from 1999 to 2005. “Sister Dorothy was among us daily, and must have known every employee personally. She saw everybody.”

Sharp, who dispatched repairs for the hospital’s facilities and equipment, would sometimes eat lunch with Klingele. The Snohomish woman recalled an employee contest. “They had everyone born at Providence or General Hospital bring in baby pictures,” Sharp said. Employees were to guess identities from the pictures. “Sister Dorothy knew everybody. She could tell who they were,” Sharp said.

After earning her Ph.D. in 1968, Klingele worked as a genetics fellow at Spokane’s Sacred Heart Hospital. She did postdoctoral research at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, and was a postdoctoral fellow in medical genetics at the University of Oregon Health Sciences Center in Portland. Before returning to Everett, she was a professor of biological sciences at Fort Wright College in Spokane.

It was 1981 when Klingele returned to Providence Hospital. Before retiring from Providence, she filled the roles of data analyst in the planning and marketing department, director of mission integration, and Sister of Providence representative.

“We were blessed to have her at Providence Everett for many years,” said Cheri Russum, leadership and organization internal communications manager for Providence Health & Services, in an email about Klingele’s passing.

Russum called the nun “an icon” at the hospital. As lab director, Klingele was given the task of designing a new laboratory at Providence Hospital. In her later years, Russum said, she led the blessing of the Women and Children’s Pavilion. And she was involved in the design of the Our Lady of Compassion Chapel at the hospital’s Pacific campus and of the Ascension Chapel at the Colby campus.

Klingele was “an active voice of the poor and vulnerable in Everett and throughout Snohomish County,” Russum’s email said.

Everett’s Rita Hooper attended Seattle University with Klingele’s younger sister, and later worked in the Providence lab. She became friends with Sister Dorothy, sometimes seeing movies or having dinner with her.

“She was a great lady, a very intelligent woman,” said Hooper, 87. “We were good friends.”

Judy Ferrel, director of laboratory services at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, said Klingele was involved in bringing an “automation line” to the lab. The introduction of robotics not only promoted consistency, it made handling blood-borne pathogens safer for workers.

“Even up to the time she retired, you could get her riled up for a cause,” Ferrel said. “She was spunky.”