Rev. Richard Stohr Raised Hopes Of Those Around Him

By Carole Beers
Saturday, September 30, 1995

The Rev. Richard W. Stohr was in the business of hope. He gave it to kids in need of an athletic field or of recognition for a talent such as public speaking.

He gave it to street people by founding a seniors shelter or sitting on the curb as they spilled their woes.

And he gave it to those who found it tough traveling to Washington's prison communities to visit loved ones.

Father Stohr, of the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle, died of cancer Tuesday at age 73.

"He loved the downtrodden and people without hope," said brother-in-law, Bob Probach of Vashon.

"His hobby was his people. No gardening, no golf. He worked 25 hours a day for people."

Short and dark, with a stocky but athletic build, Father Stohr as a youth in Yakima showed creativity and leadership in all he tackled. He was student-body president, a Boy Scout and an altar boy.

After graduation, he went to St. Edward's Seminary in Kenmore and was ordained a priest in 1947.

Three years later, Father Stohr launched Seattle's Catholic Youth Organization.

"All the Catholic schools here had teams but weren't organized to play one another," his brother-in-law said. "So he did all that. They also didn't have a playing field, and he did that, too, where the Connolly Center now stands at Seattle University."

Father Stohr was always staging contests, showcasing different student skills and, as a prize, once took a group of exemplary altar boys back East to a Notre Dame football game.

"He did an outstanding job," said current CYO Director Stephen McAuliffe. "CYO was all of youth ministry then, so parish youth groups were local extensions of CYO. They had youth conventions, dances, festivals, plays and speech contests."

A congratulatory letter from Archbishop Thomas Connolly to Father Stohr at the conclusion of his CYO service still hangs in CYO offices. It praises his "tireless energy and boundless enthusiasm."

After he retired at 62, he worked with street people and helped organize Seattle's Lazarus Center, offering elders a place to shower and eat with dignity. He never tried to convert them.

"He also did prison ministry for the state," said his sister, Dorothy Probach of Vashon.

When he learned families found it hard to travel to see inmates, then have nowhere to stay near correctional centers, he arranged for charities to provide bus service and acquired older homes where families could stay.

He gave hope and money. Whenever he came into big bills, he broke them into little ones to hand to the needy.

"Material things meant nothing," his sister said. "He drove an old beat-up car. I'd ask if he needed money and he'd say, `You don't need money, honey'.

"I think the world was a better place because of him."

Other survivors include brothers Stanley and Jim Stohr, of Yakima, and nieces and nephews.

Rosary will be said at 4 p.m. Monday at Hoffner Fisher & Harvey funeral home, 508 N. 36th St., Seattle. A funeral mass will be at 8 p.m. Monday at St. James Cathedral. Remembrances may go to Lazarus Center, P.O. Box 4741, Seattle, WA 98122, or to the St. Vincent de Paul Society of the Cathedral, 804 Ninth Ave., Seattle, WA 98104.

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