Down bereft Bartlett Street and every road she traveled, Sister Rosemary Lynch found a poem in each sunrise stroll and hope for humanity in the most unlikely places.
One road she walked in her 93 years led to the gates of the Nevada Test Site, where she protested against nuclear weapons testing and proliferation for more than 30 years, with the arrest record to prove it. Other roads took her to Mexico, Europe, Africa and back to Las Vegas with its aching need for the kind of soul food only spiritual sisters and brothers can provide.
From the humble Franciscan headquarters on Bartlett Street, Sister Rosemary spent decades in the service of the poor in the name of the Lord. She wrote poetry, spoke many languages and stood for peace in our backyard and on three continents. She was a co-founder of the Pace e Bene (Peace and All Good) Nonviolence Service. She walked nearly every morning, often with longtime friend Sister Klaryta Antoszewska.
Sister Rosemary once told me, "My first prayer of the day is one of gratitude that I can get up in the morning and that I still have the faculties that God graced me with and that I still have enough health to go through the day."
It was during a walk with Sister Klaryta on Jan. 5 that she was struck by a car as it backed out of a driveway. She suffered traumatic head injuries and died Jan. 9 at a local hospice. A memorial service is 4 p.m. today at St. James the Apostle Catholic Church, not far from Bartlett Street.
You would expect her friends at the Nevada Desert Experience to sing her praises, and they do.
But Sister Rosemary also has an admirer in former Nye County sheriff's Capt. Jim Merlino. While it was the sister's calling to protest at the test site gates, once she and her friends crossed the line, Merlino would arrest her.
"She was a joy to talk to," Merlino recalls. "I thought very highly of her, and she respected me, I know. We managed to get along all right. She was very calm, very quiet. She was in charge of that group. She wanted to demonstrate down there against atomic energy and that sort of thing. I told her she could do what she wants to do, but I had a job to do also. She understood that. I always enjoyed seeing her."
Even when he had to arrest her.
Merlino's affection and respect for Sister Rosemary doesn't surprise Pace e Bene Las Vegas office manager Peter Ediger.
"She had remarkable relationships with people she was often at odds with on social issues," Ediger says. "She had that capacity for recognizing the human good in all people and drawing out the best in all of us, in all the people she met."
For the Nevada Desert Experience's Jim Haber, Sister Rosemary's life was a shining inspiration to other peace activists.
"She was very vibrant for anyone, all the more so for someone in her 90s," he says. "Her stamina was amazing to me, and she was so quick-witted. Her life inspires me to continue and not give up."
In addition to her religious beliefs, she was in touch with the spirit of the natural world, Sister Megan Rice says.
"I know from many conversations with Rosemary that she was deeply in tune with the energy of the universe, of creation, truly feeling it, truly being strengthened day by day."
Sister Rosemary Lynch's road now leads to eternity in accordance with her faith, but the sunrise is still a hopeful poem for those who see it.
As the senior sister of Bartlett Street knew so well, precious peace is always good.
John L. Smith's column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith.