Saint Marys Hospital carpenter leaves behind unforgettable gift - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Saint Marys Hospital carpenter leaves behind unforgettable gift

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- On a typical day back in 1917, a humble man from Wisconsin, down on his luck, appeared on the steps of Saint Marys Hospital looking for shelter and a fresh start at life.

The man called himself Joseph Howlett, and was quickly recognized for his handyman skills.

His life before Saint Marys remains to be a mystery, but he roamed the halls of the hospital, doing carpentry work and performing other odd jobs for the rest of his years in exchange for a small salary, food, a home and a family.

"After he retired he even helped the sisters peel the vegetables and section grapefruit for the diabetic patients and he had a great love," said Sister Lauren Weinandt, who knew Joseph when she began working at Saint Marys in 1956.

He quickly earned the title "Joseph the Carpenter" for all of his hard work.

"Of course we know how holy St. Joseph was, but it's kind of a little parallel," said Sister Lauren.

She said Joseph could often be found in the chapel, where one of his handiworks is displayed year after year during the holiday season: the manger for the nativity scene.

Joseph gave plenty to Saint Marys Hospital while he was there, but it was after his death in 1960, when the sisters discovered his extraordinary gift.

Behind a picture in his room was a note and the collections of his meager salary and bond investments, which totaled to $10,000.  He wished his money to be put into the Sister Joseph Endowment Fund, which provides financial aid for nursing students.

To this day, Joseph remains one of the largest donors to that fund, and has a special mention in the fund's mission.

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