Men's Basketball

The Story of Sister Jean and Her Pet Monkey

Nick Schultz | The PhoenixLoyola men's basketball chaplain Sister Jean waves as she exits Gentile Arena after the Ramblers' 78-44 victory over Evansville Jan. 11.

In her 100 years, Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, BVM, has done a lot. She remembers watching the Loyola men’s basketball team win the 1963 national championship. She was an administrator at Mundelein College before it merged with Loyola in 1990. She became the star of the 2018 NCAA Tournament as the team chaplain, cheering on her beloved Ramblers.

But did you know about her pet monkey?

The men’s basketball players sure didn’t when she told them during her phone conversations with them this past week. It came up during their discussions about how people’s personal desires change over time.

When Sister Jean was about 10 years old and living in San Francisco, one of her family friends was an engineer on a cargo boat sent to South America. Before he left, he asked what Sister Jean and her two brothers wanted him to bring back, she told The Phoenix.

Their answer was simple: a monkey.

“I still remember the quizzical look he had on his face at my parents,” Sister Jean recalled. “We didn’t know much about South America … so we decided that’s what we wanted him to bring us.”

“Of anyone to have a pet monkey, it would be Sister Jean.”

Jake Baughman, Loyola redshirt junior guard

As the boat was making its way back to the United States, a monkey unexpectedly gave birth. Since the baby was born in international waters, it couldn’t go with the mother because it hadn’t been tested for diseases. So, the captain offered it to the men on the ship.

Lo and behold, the friend came back with a capuchin monkey for Sister Jean and her family. They called him Jerry, although she said she doesn’t know how they came up with that name. Her mom knitted a red sweater for him to wear and her dad built him a cage to stay in.

She also mentioned his love for coffee — with cream and sugar, of course.

“He had a mug … and he would take his piece of toast and dunk it in there, squeeze it out and eat it,” Sister Jean said. “Then he’d … pick up [his coffee] with both paws and drink it.”

Unfortunately, Sister Jean said, someone stole Jerry one day. Despite her parents’ efforts — which included taking ads out in the newspapers and putting flyers up — they never found him. But the moral of the story was how people’s desires change after they’re fulfilled.

David Dennis | Flickr Sister Jean’s childhood pet monkey, Jerry, was a capuchin, which is pictured here.

When the players heard Sister Jean had a pet monkey when she was young, redshirt junior guard Jake Baughman said they couldn’t help but laugh. Although he said his childhood wish was for a puppy — which he said is “not as cool as a monkey” — part of him wasn’t surprised to hear Sister Jean’s story.

“Of anyone to have a pet monkey, it would be Sister Jean,” Baughman said. “All of us were talking about it. … I couldn’t believe it. When she called me, I asked her, ‘That’s true, right? You had a pet monkey?’”

Baughman also said after he missed Sister Jean’s first phone call, he saved her number — and he plans on calling her regularly during the offseason.

“She told me to give her a call whenever I want to,” Baughman said. “I’ll probably give her a call in the next couple days just to check up on her. Also, it’s always good just to talk with Sister Jean.”

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