Mercita Brett Kane, 101, speech educator

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Mercita Brett Kane

Mercita Brett Kane likely spent more years at what is now the campus of Immaculata University than most students, her family says.

"She was in the boarding school in Immaculata from the time she was 4 years old," in 1918, her daughter, Maryanna Massey, said in a phone interview.

Mrs. Kane attended elementary, high school, and college classes there, graduating in 1935.

The reason is that a great aunt, Mother Loyola, headed the religious order, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which had opened what is now Villa Maria Lower School on the Malvern campus in 1914.

Mother Loyola persuaded Mrs. Kane's parents, who were living in the Frankford neighborhood of Philadelphia, to send Mercita to the Villa Maria elementary school.

And in 1920, Mother Loyola became the first president of Villa Maria College, which in 1929 became Immaculata College, the university website states.

On Wednesday, Mrs. Kane, 101, of Sicklerville, a former elocution teacher in Frankford, died at Virtua Hospital in Marlton.

Mrs. Kane earned a bachelor's in English at what is now Immaculata University, for which her family said she had strong ties, and some heartbreak.

"She talked all her life about how homesick she was," in her early years in Malvern, her daughter said, because she came home only "on holidays and in the summer."

She was not entirely isolated in Malvern.

"Her sister, Marie, who was two years older," was there, Massey said, and later she was joined by her sister Bernadette, who was four years younger.

In 2014, when she turned 100, Mrs. Kane showed her pride in Immaculata.

The school made a point of celebrating her birthday outside of a Villa Maria hall, where she had taken classes when she was very young.

Inside the building, where she had taken her first Holy Communion and confirmation, she and her family attended Mass.

At the end of Mass, the Immaculata alma mater was played "and she stood up and sang every word," of all two verses, harmonizing on the last line, her daughter said.

In her senior college year, Mrs. Kane was president of the Cue and Curtain Drama Club there and was briefly an actress at the WFIL radio station in Philadelphia.

Instead of continuing on radio, she opened the Brett School of Elocution at her parents' home in the 4600 block of Horrocks Street, "until she married" in 1940, Massey said, when "that became her job."

Winnie Howells, property manager at Shenandoah Village, where Mrs. Kane lived, said she had known her for 15 years.

"She is a trip," Howells said. "She had an unbelievable sense of humor."

And when she spoke of her life, Howells said, Mrs. Kane spoke not only of her early years in Malvern but "of working with kids who had speech impediments."

Besides her daughter, Mrs. Kane is survived by sons John J. Jr., Michael, and Peter, 23 grandchildren, and 42 great-grandchildren. Her husband, John J., died in 1999.

A viewing is scheduled for 9 to 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, May 31, at the Danks-Hinski Funeral Home, 125 N. White Horse Pike, Lindenwold, before an 11 a.m. Funeral Mass at St. Lawrence Church, 100 South Ave., Lindenwold, with interment in Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Berlin.

Donations may be sent to www.immaculata.edu.

Condolences may be offered to the family at dankshinskifuneralhome.com.

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