Members of the Catholic community in Richmond and decades’ worth of students and teachers at the St. Michael and St. Francis elementary schools are mourning the loss of Sister Violet Belair, who died earlier this week after contracting COVID-19.
According to Sister Lorraine Costello of the Congregation of Notre Dame, Belair and Sister Monica McKenna both made the trip into Montreal last February from their Richmond home to winter at the mother house of their order, but ended up extending their stay with the arrival of the travel restrictions associated with the pandemic. Belair celebrated her 90th birthday with her fellow nuns last May and apparently remained a lively part of the community until health concerns took her to the Notre Dame de Bonsecours infirmary in the summer time. Since then the residence has become the site of a serious outbreak of COVID-19, and Costello said that Belair and McKenna both tested positive for the virus. Although McKenna’s case was largely asymptomatic, Belair’s decline was very quick.
In Richmond, Belair was remembered by many The Record contacted as a kind and musical soul who gave deeply of herself over the decades after she moved to the community to teach at the, then new, St. Michael School.
“She was very soft-spoken and gentle soul,” said Tim Keenan, whom Belair taught in the fourth grade. “She was motherly without the experience of being a mother.”