FRED O'HEARN died at 7pm on Friday, June 30th at the Franciscan Hospice in University Place from several ailments relating to heart, respiration and kidney function.
As reported by Bob Riler in an email the next day, "Fred and his wife Sharon had spent time together during the day soaking up the sun in the hospice garden area, catching the magnificent colors of the flower and watching the birds splash about in the water.
It was perhaps a fitting conclusion to a life well lived.
The resurrection is his."
My thanks go to Bob and Marcia Riler for all their care and support to Fred and Sharon O'Hearn, especially in his final days. Sharon was a house guest with the Riler's since Fred's move from Puyallup to Tacoma, and Bob provided the Sacrament of the Sick to Fred. They had met initially while Bob was pastor of All Saints Church in Puyallup and continued their friendship after Bob transitioned a few years ago.
Fred was raised in Bellingham with a devout Catholic family that lived just a block from Assumption Church there. Fred was ordained December 21, 1946 as part of the same class from St. Edward's Seminary with our own Andy Prouty as well as Archbishop Hunthausen and former Seattle Archdiocese chancellor Msgr. John Doogan. His ordination was delayed a few months because of health issues in his respiratory system. That health issue lead to his assignment to the Yakima area where the climate is dryer than Seattle. At the time it was part of the Seattle diocese. He served there for 25 years and was a leader of the Yakima clergy with his many gifts and dynamic personality. He was known as a dynamic preacher, natural leader of his fellow clergy, and caring pastor. He was also an avid outdoorsman and loved camping, fishing, and hunting. He served as pastor in Leavenworth, Ellensburg, and Wapato. In fall 1968 he went to San Diego for studies in psychology, leadership, and counseling. He then worked on a project at the University of San Francisco and resigned from active ministry and in 1971, married Sharon and assumed the role of stepfather for her 4 teen age children. He worked for the City of Oakland as a administrative analyst in the police department. He retired in 1985 and they moved to the Puyallup area and became partners in a muffler shop with one of Sharon's sons. Fred became active at All Saints church as coordinator for the lectors and as a religious ed teacher there although he was very discrete about his background as a resigned priest.
Fred O'Hearn was a special inspiration to me as a young kid. His sister, Cecelia Fox, and her husband were close friends of my parents at St. Edward's Parish in south Seattle. I had contact with Fred during his visits to Seattle and went with him and a group on a fishing trip as a grade school child. He was "bigger than life" and a very dynamic man and priest....a natural leader. He was a big part of my inspiration to enter the seminary and eventually preached at my first Mass in May, 1968. Fr. Tom Champoux of Yakima reports that Fred was also pivotal in his decision to enter the seminary. Fred's decision to resign from active ministry soon after my own ordination was somewhat traumatic for me, but we remained in contact and he continued to be a mentor especially after his return to this area.
After Bob Riler's initial email alerting us to Fred's move to hospice care, I contacted Fred's sister and on Wednesday I took Cecelia and her husband Jim to the hospice center for a visit. One of their adult daughters joined us. Fred was magnificent and had each of us sit next to him for a short visit while he shared with us how much he appreciated our individual qualities and what we meant to him. It was powerful and totally consistent with the deep and focused way he lived his 86 years.
As Bob put it so beautifully, we have lost a great man whose wisdom, passion for life, and love of others made a great priest and husband, brother, stepfather, uncle and friend to many. His graceful death continues a legacy of living life to the full.