They lived frugally, with a noble end-goal in sight. Two of the three sisters never married. They saved and dreamed of how they could help the poor and the Catholic Church they so loved. The Koncavich (Kun-ca’-vich) sisters—Stella, Mary, and Helen, at their deaths, left a nearly $1 million estate to the Catholic Community Foundation of Mid-Michigan (CCFMM) in 2010. The CCFMM Koncavich Fund was created as a living legacy to these three special sisters.
Lovingly named the “Golden Girls” by the Bay City parishioners of Saint Stanislaus Kostka Church, these remarkable Polish women were born in Mullan, Idaho, to parents Alexander and Agnes (Rzesutkow) Koncavich: Mary, born in 1913; Helen, 1914; and Stella,1917. Blessed with longevity, the Koncavich sisters lived very modestly for decades so they could donate the money they saved to serve the poor and needy in the Saginaw Catholic Diocese.
Pat Ueberroth, a parishioner at St. Stan’s (now part of Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish), remembers that any time an appeal was made for the missions or other worthy causes, the Koncavich donation was always on the large end. She adds that the three sisters were “funny, sweet, and real ladies.”
Close in age and life-long Catholics, the Koncavich Golden Girls must have had a remarkable upbringing for the way they lived out their faith. According to Fr. Bill Rutkowski, who knew the sisters well, “Their Catholic faith was very serious to them—it was the heart of their lives.”
Mary, the oldest of the sisters, born in 1913, was 89 when she passed away in 2002 after a long life of service to parish and community. She was especially devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and belonged to Bay City’s St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, where she was a member of the Rosary/Altar Sodality #6, St. Anne’s Society, and Golden Horizons. Fr. Bill notes that “Mary was the quiet one, and she had a wonderful smile!”
Helen (Crevia), born a year after Mary, in 1914, was the only one of the three girls to marry. She married Leo Maxwell Crevia on September 14, 1935, and they were married nearly 50 years until his death in 1985. They had no children. Helen died in 2007, at age 93, and was a member of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, Legion of Mary, the Rosary/Altar Sodality #6, and St. Anne’s Society. Like her sisters, Helen was very devoted to her church and faith, and she cherished the opportunity to take Communion to the homebound for many years.
Stella, who lived to age 91, was the last of the sisters to pass away in 2008, at her residence in Bay City, Michigan. Stella worked for the State of Michigan Employment Security Commission (MESC) for 48 years. She started there as a clerk/typist, but worked her way up to the position of manager for the MESC Bay City branch. Stella was well-liked and respected by her coworkers, and the Bay MESC received numerous job placement awards from the State of Michigan while Stella was at the helm.
In 1968, Stella earned a Master’s Degree in guidance and counseling from the University of Michigan by attending evening classes. A 2008 St. Stan’s bulletin memorial announcement indicates Stella was also a commissioned Lay Minister, active with the Legion of Mary, and visited the hospital and homebound with Holy Communion every Sunday. Of all Stella’s awards and accomplishments, the one she valued most was a Papal Blessing she received. According to Stella’s friend and neighbor, Marge Luczak, “Stella received this award upon her retirement, in recognition of the exemplary life she led.”
Father Bill has fond memories of the Koncavich sisters: “They were always together, and Stella was the leader of the ladies, their caretaker. If you saw them enter a room or church, they were always in the same order, with Stella leading. The girls were always all-smiles when you saw them. They were humble and drove a simple older car and lived in a simple ranch-style house in the south-end of Bay City. The interior of the home was also simple, with older furniture that they were quite content with.”
According to Fr. Bill, “Mary and Helen had grey hair and wore everyday clothing; Stella had red hair and was always dressed professionally. She was bright, classy, and a real go-getter. Stella was also one of the first Commissioned Lay Ministers in the Saginaw Diocese. She was well-known in the community and loved ministering to the sick and home-bound.”
Marge Kuczak remembers the strong work ethic of all the Koncavich sisters. She points out that they lived through the Great Depression, and thus took nothing for granted. They lived frugally, prayed the Rosary together, and channeled their time and energies into service to St. Stan’s church and the community. Marge adds that the sisters loved animals, especially their little dog Benji. Another friend of the family, Frank Dudak, who brought Stella Communion when she could no longer attend Mass, also recalls the sisters’ great work ethic, their kindness, and how beloved Benji was to the family.
Ever devoted to Mary, the Koncavich sisters were very active in the Legion of Mary. Through this organization, they visited the sick in hospitals, took Holy Communion to the home-bound and those in nursing homes, and prayed the Rosary. The girls were at the heart of the St. Stan’s Legion of Mary, which was interconnected with other Legion of Mary groups. Fr. Bill recalls one final Legion of Mary service which brought together Legion members from all over the state. “Archbishop Carlson presided at this event, to acknowledge and show his appreciation for all the good Legion of Mary members did,” he said.
The Koncavich sisters beautifully lived out their faith, says Fr. Bill. He adds that this Bible verse comes to mind when he thinks about them:
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you made me feel welcome…Matthew 25:35
“The Koncavich sisters emulated the living out of this gospel, of their Catholic faith,”adds Fr. Bill, “and they not only did it while they were living, but beyond, through their CCFMM trust. Because of the Golden Girls’ simple lifestyle, it was surprising to many that they left such a large bequest to CCFMM, to help the poor and needy.”
The CCFMM Koncavich Fund was created in 2010 as a living legacy to these three special sisters. This fund fulfills the mission of the “Golden Girls,” as it disperses money each year to multiple organizations, such as homeless shelters, food pantries, rescue missions, etc. “As that money is feeding and helping the poor, it’s as if Stella, Helen, and Mary are still here doing the work of the Lord,” says Fr. Bill Rutkowski.
Written by Mary Beth Looby