Father Bandle Did What He Loved to the End

By Tom Heinen
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
January 10, 2001

Father Ronald J. Bandle did not know that own life's journey was about to end last Saturday evening as he waved burning incense over the creche at St. Joseph Church in Lyons to start the Epiphany liturgy celebrating the arrival of the wise men.

He turned and walked around the interior of the church, sprinkling holy water on the congregation as he went.

Seconds later, he collapsed. Emergency medical technicians were called. Some parishioners began administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The rest of the shocked congregation began reciting the rosary.

But Bandle's nearly 33-year ministry as a priest was over. He died at Memorial Hospital in Burlington, the 59-year- old victim of an apparent heart attack.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 7:30 tonight at St. Matthew Church in Neosho. Visitation will be from 3 p.m. until the service.

A memorial Mass will be said at 3 p.m. Sunday at St. Joseph, 1540 Mill St., Lyons.

"He was very gentle, kind, and very reserved, very quiet," said Barbara Malterer, 55, of Iron Ridge, a sister. "He never complained. . . . I don't know if that's his German heritage or what.

"He was a very simple person. I don't think he bought a new shirt or a new pair of pants in the past 10 years. Somebody today described him as just being very godly. Maybe he was a monk and we didn't know it.

"Going through his things in his apartment, we found more thank-you notes from people to him. Every other piece of paper was a thank-you note. He kept everything. And he had many, many, many books. We probably packed up at least 20 boxes of books."

Bandle had been the assisting priest at St. Joseph, which has a lay parish director, since June 1996. He also ministered to nursing homes in Milwaukee.

Parish director Dan Hull, who was at the service on Saturday, said the parish is "stunned" by Bandle's death. But he took solace in its circumstances.

"He died doing what he loved doing, he died not alone but with a whole church of people praying for him, and he didn't suffer," Hull said. "If you're looking at your own death, it doesn't get any better."

Ordained a priest in 1968, Bandle served as an associate pastor, and later as a pastoral team member at parishes including St. John the Baptist in Plymouth, Our Lady of Sorrows in Milwaukee, St. Patrick in Fond du Lac, St. Mary in Menomonee Falls, Holy Apostles in New Berlin and St. Mary in Waukesha. He was also simultaneously pastor of three parishes -- Sacred Heart and St. Anthony in Allenton and SS Peter and Paul in Nenno -- that later merged to form Resurrection Parish.

Brothers and sisters described him as an enthusiastic golfer and a skilled bowler. Many of his nine brothers and three sisters were accomplished bowlers, as was his father.

Coming from a large family, love of competition was a natural part of his makeup, family members said. Family football and softball games were common.

In addition, "Dad had set up a bowling alley up in the barn with bales of hay and real bowling pins, and we used to go up there in the wintertime after school and bowl," recalled Kathy Kemp, 56, of Tucson, Ariz., a sister. "This was a farm on the outskirts of Newburg."

When their father owned a bowling alley for a few years in Reeseville, the kids had to work as pinsetters because there was no automatic machinery to do it. But they also got to practice as much as they wanted, Malterer said.

The Bandle family has had another recent loss. Their mother, Dorothy Bandle, 80, died Dec. 4.

Ronald Bandle said the funeral Mass and gave the homily, using a favorite German-American expression of his mother's to wish her a swift journey to heaven. It was something she used to say whenever her children would leave after visiting her -- "Come good home."

In addition to Kemp and Malterer, he is survived by another sister, Susann McDaniel of Mayville, and brothers Dennis of Sussex, Frederick of West Bend, Timothy of Ashland City, Tenn., and John and Ted, both of Hustisford.


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