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Rev. Sister Rita J. Dugger, Episcopal nun, teacher and minister

Nov. 2, 1927 – April 22, 2017

The Rev. Sister Rita J. Dugger, an Episcopal nun, teacher and minister for the deaf, died last Saturday in St. Catherine Laboure Health Care Center at Sisters Hospital. She was 89.

Born in Buffalo, the fourth of seven children, the former Rita Jacqueline Carney grew up on the West Side.

Hearing impaired as a young woman, she learned American Sign Language at St. Mary’s School for the Deaf when taking one of her hearing-impaired children there.

She volunteered as an adult education sign language teacher for the Kenmore Town of Tonawanda Schools and, in the 1970s, volunteered as a religious instructor at St. Mary’s School for the Deaf.

Rev. Dugger studied theology privately and was ordained as a deacon in 1980 by Episcopal Bishop Harold B. Robinson to serve for Ephphatha, the church for the deaf.

The mother of four, she and her husband of 36 years, Raymond E. II, head mechanic at the General Motors Tonawanda Engine Plant, served as foster parents to 24 children in their home in the Town of Tonawanda.

They also were founding members of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Eggertsville.

After the death of her husband in 1982, she joined the Community of the Way of the Cross, an Episcopal sisterhood, and took her vows in 1983.

Two years later she was elected mother superior and served in that position until 1996, when she transferred to the Sisters of the Church in Hamilton, Ont., where she made her life profession in 1998.

She was a former member of the Ladies Auxiliary of Kenilworth Fire Company, where her husband was a volunteer for 25 years, and the Ladies Auxiliary of Brounshidle Post 205, American Legion, where she was part of the marching unit that performed in parades.

Survivors include two daughters, Rena Mae Kantenwein and Regina; a son, Ralph E.; a brother, John Carney; 11 grandchildren; 18 great-grandchildren; and four great-great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday in St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 205 Longmeadow Road, Eggertsville.

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