AAA  Mar. 12, 2017 8:00 PM ET
St. Martin's Dunphy, 86, remembered
  Halee Heironimus
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Halee Heironimus y The Gazette

As parishioners gathered at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church in Liverpool Township for Mass on Saturday evening without the Rev. Thomas R. Dunphy, family life minister Colene Conley said she sensed his presence as the sun set outside the church.

“The pavilion (named after Dunphy) was encapsulated with the beautiful setting sun,” Conley said.

Dunphy, 86, died Saturday from an illness at his home in Cuyahoga Falls. He had been with St. Martin’s for 33 years and was the oldest active pastor in the Diocese of Cleveland’s eight-county Catholic community.

“He was a wonderful priest and a great man of faith,” said the Rev. Don Oleksiak, who added he often assisted Dunphy at the church for 14 years. “His motto was to keep his eyes fixed on Jesus, and he was devoted to his people entrusted in his care.”

“He was filled with the Holy Sprit,” Conley said, noting Dunphy always would be singing down the hallway. “You could feel it radiating from him.”

St. Martin’s, 1800 Station Road, will hold a vespers service at 3 p.m. Wednesday followed by a viewing until 8 p.m. The funeral will be 11 a.m. Thursday at the church.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks memorials be made to St. Martin’s in memory of Dunphy.

The Diocese of Cleveland announced it will provide pastoral and sacramental care at the parish while working to find an interim until a new pastor is found.

‘Enjoyed life’

Dunphy was described by friends as “fun, easy to get along with, had a good sense of humor and enjoyed life.”

The Rev. Joseph Kraker, retired from St. Vincent de Paul in Akron, said he was a friend of Dunphy’s for more than

50 years.

“(Every) Tuesday we would get together and go out to lunch,” Kraker said.

Kraker, 78, said he met Dunphy through his brother, who attended seminary at St. Mary’s Parish and School in Akron.

“He was my older brother’s best friend,” Kraker said. “I just tagged along and when my brother died 17 years ago, we kept meeting every week.

Kraker said he, his brother and Dunphy would go on vacation together every year, but once his brother died, Dunphy continued with his own vacations.

“He would get in his car and drive for two weeks,” Kraker said, noting he was planning a vacation scheduled for three weeks ago. “He didn’t get there.”

Kraker noted Dunphy’s relationship with parishioners at St. Martin’s was his primary interest.

“It’s very unusual (for a priest) to be in the parish that long (33 years), but I know he loved it up there and I bet the people loved him,” Kraker said.

Kraker will speak during the vespers service Wednesday.

“We spent a lot of years together. … They were good years,” Kraker said.

Career adviser

Conley, a parishioner at St. Martin’s since 1976, said Dunphy was a “go-to” person when someone was in need of advice or to talk with.

For Conley, it was pursuing a degree in higher education.

“I said, ‘I think I’ll go back to Malone (University) where I got my bachelor’s degree and he said, ‘Why would you want to do that?’ ” Conley said.

“(Dunphy) opened up his desk drawer and set a packet of stuff in front of me and said, ‘Here’s what you need to do. You need to get your master’s degree from Ursuline (College) and apply for the pastoral ministry program through the Cleveland Catholic Diocese.’ ”

In 2012, Dunphy hired Conley to serve as family life pastoral minister at St. Martin’s after she obtained a master’s of arts and ministry.

“Without him, I would’ve never known and never pursued it,” she said. “I had the pleasure of working with him for last five years.”

‘Service

to the people’

In 1958, Dunphy was ordained by Bishop Edward Hoban at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Cleveland. He served at St. Raphael Catholic Church from 1958 to 1964 and returned to St. John’s in 1964 for a year and a half.

In his early career, Dunphy spent 14 years serving as Catholic chaplain at the Newman Center at the University of Akron. He led the Newman club, daily Mass and activities, and maintained a social and spiritual atmosphere for students.

While at the university, Dunphy also served as Catholic chaplain at the Village of St. Edward’s Nursing Care in Fairlawn from 1979 to 1984.

He joined St. Martin’s in June 1984.

“(Dunphy) loved (parishioners) and they loved him,” Oleksiak said. “It’s a great parish.”

In addition to Dunphy’s roles in the church, he visited those who were ill in the township weekly and gave them blessings.

“His ministry to the sick was exemplary,” Oleksiak said. “He really saw his life as a service to the people, especially those who were really in need.”

The church posted the following message on its website: “There are no words to describe how dearly he was loved and how much he will be missed. He has touched a great many lives in a big way. He is surely in heaven this very moment, sending his love down to us all.”

Dunphy’s obituary is on A6.

Contact reporter Halee Heironimus

at (330) 721-4012

or hheironimus@medina-gazette.com.

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