Fr. Jim Jacobs, 94, oldest diocesan priest, dies

By | February 28, 2011

Fr. Jacobs died Feb. 12 at age 94. Msgr. Koszarek delivered the homily at the funeral Mass celebrated Feb. 19 at St. Agnes Church, Green Bay. Bishop Robert Morneau was the presider.

Fr. Jacobs, an Appleton native, said, in a 2008 interview with The Compass, that he knew he wanted to be a priest at a young age. His uncle, Fr. Bernard Jacobs, was the pastor at St. James, Cooperstown. He also had two aunts who were Sisters of St. Agnes.

“With people like that in your relationships, you naturally get a lot of encouragement,” said Fr. Jacobs, who attended St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee.

Fr. Jacobs was ordained on March 20, 1943, by Archbishop Moses Kiley at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee. He served as an assistant in Sturgeon Bay and New London prior to becoming pastor of St. Mary Parish, Marion, in 1956.

Following 10 years in Marion, he served three years at St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Lena, and then five years at St. John, Green Bay. His final official assignment, prior to his retirement in 1986, was as pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Crandon; St. Mary, Argonne; and the station at St. Michael, Hiles.

“I enjoyed each parish,” said Fr. Jacobs. “Whenever I received a new assignment, I sort of felt bad about leaving, but you got to know the people in the new parish.”

Following his retirement, Fr. Jacobs continued to preside at weekend Masses at parishes in both the Green Bay and Superior dioceses. He described that time as being “retreaded not retired.”

Msgr. Koszarek said Fr. Jacobs was a people person and very ecumenical.

“Whenever I went with him, shopping, voting, to the bank or on the golf course, the trip was always prolonged because people would stop to talk with him, or he would stop to greet and talk with them,” he said.

Fr. Jacobs enjoyed staying active, added Msgr. Koszarek. During his younger years, he and Fr. Pat Bernardy, another close friend, cut firewood. Fr. Jacobs took daily walks into his 90s, and he paddled his water bike around Hemlock Lake where he and Msgr. Koszarek were neighbors for 25 years.

“Every morning, he would do 30 push-ups,” said Msgr. Koszarek. “I never witnessed that, but his biceps showed it. He could really drive a golf ball — if he made contact.”

Fr. Jacobs and Msgr. Koszarek spent a considerable amount of time together watching football and golf, enjoying dinner and conversation, and sitting on the deck overlooking the lake.

“We would reflect on how lucky we were, whereas so many people in the world were not so lucky,” said Msgr. Koszarek. “Hemlock Lake insulated us somewhat from the tumult and troubles of the wider world. One evening, while enjoying our cocktail, the moment and the whole scene, I said to Fr. Jim, ‘This is the good life.’ That became our weekly mantra. Fr. Jim was sort of my spiritual director, so I asked him why we should be so privileged. He replied, ‘God gives us these ecstatic moments and this wonderful world of nature because he knows we appreciate them.'”

Fr. Jacobs reflected on spiritual life in 2008 when celebrating 65 years of priesthood.

“It’s been a beautiful life,” he said. “It was awesome and God is good.”

Fr. Jacobs is survived by a brother, Walter, and a sister, Carmelite Sr. Bernadette.

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