Deacon De Bruin, first farmer ordained for diocese, dies

By Jeff Kurowski | The Compass | August 13, 2014

ALLOUEZ — When asked what he will remember most about Deacon Orvell De Bruin, Deacon Richard Matuszak of St. John the Baptist Parish, Seymour, said that it would be unjust to pick out just one memory of a man who “leaves a legacy of honor and respect.”

Deacon De Bruin died July 27 at age 92.

Deacon Orvell DeBruin
Deacon Orvell De Bruin

A lifelong Seymour resident, Deacon De Bruin farmed most of his life. He became the first farmer turned deacon for the Diocese of Green Bay when he was ordained by Bishop Aloysius Wycislo on May 16, 1981, at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay.

“Retiring from farming did not mean that Orvell was retiring,” said Deacon Paul Grimm, former diocesan director of the Diaconate who serves at St. John in Seymour. “He simply took a whole new full-time ministry as an ordained deacon. He turned his efforts towards a harvest of a different sort. Instead of harvesting crops on the farm, he turned his efforts toward harvesting souls for the Lord.”

In addition to being a deacon at St. John the Baptist Parish, Deacon DeBruin served the diocese as Rural Life director and advocate for the marriage tribunal. Serving in Rural Life was perfect, said close friend Msgr. Jim Dillenburg, who served as the homilist at the funeral Mass for Deacon De Bruin.

“He had such a heart for those who were suffering,” said Msgr. Dillenburg, who served as pastor in Seymour from 1973 to 1980. “He set up a special account for struggling farms. He and Rose Marye (his wife of 68 years) would go around and visit with the farmers.”

Fr. Bob Kabat, pastor at St. John the Baptist Parish, Seymour, ministered with Deacon De Bruin at the parish and the tribunal. It was natural for Deacon De Bruin to help wherever he could, he said.

“He and Rose Marye started the St. Vincent de Paul Society in our area to assist the needy,” said Fr. Kabat. “The community donated money to St. Vincent de Paul without any concern that the money would be used properly because they knew Orv was a man of integrity and every penny would go to those in need.”

“Orvell was my neighbor as well as my friend for 40 years,” said Deacon Matuszak. “When we speak of our ministers as being shepherds of God’s people, Orvell was that shepherd in every sense of the word. I don’t believe there was anyone within our faith community or outside of it he would hesitate to visit or assist. I know that in his prime years as a deacon he traveled a wide radius to help those in need.”

Deacon De Bruin, a World War II Army veteran, also served on the parish council, as a parish trustee and treasurer, a member of the Seymour Area Clergy Association and chaplain for the Knights of Columbus. He was also very active in the community. In 1991, Deacon De Bruin was named Seymour’s Outstanding Citizen of the Year.

Deacon Dennis Bennin of Good Shepherd Parish, Chilton, met Deacon De Bruin in 2002 when they traveled to Haiti together for a Food for the Poor mission trip.

“We formed a wonderful friendship,” said Deacon Bennin. “Many nights we just sat together and talked. He always prayed the rosary by himself. He prayed and pondered. Deacon Orvell had a heart for the poor. He chronicled through photographs. He wanted to tell the story of the lepers we saw, the widows and widowers in assisted living facilities and the orphans in the food center. He wanted to chronicle the stories of those suffering.”

“He so loved the diaconate,” said Msgr. Dillenburg. “He was so thankful to be able to evangelize on behalf of the church. It was always bigger than Orvell. At the end of the homily, I said ‘One doesn’t become a deacon when he is ordained. One is ordained because he has always been a deacon.’ That was Orvell.”

Deacon De Bruin is survived by his children: Elizabeth Birling, David (Mary) De Bruin, Steve De Bruin, Debra Rosin and Dennis De Bruin (special friend Terri); 11 grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; a brother, Ervin (Millie) De Bruin; a sister, Lucille Werth; sisters-in-law: Peggy Mory and Helen Nelson.

Rose Marye preceded him in death in 2012. He was also preceded in death by his parents, John Edward and Hattie (Green) De Bruin; son-in-law, Tom Birling; daughters-in-law: Sharon De Bruin and Patti De Bruin; a brother, Lloyd (Margaret) De Bruin; a sister, Mabel (Lloyd) Wagner; brothers-in-law: Tom Nelson and Ralph Mory; and sisters-in-law: Margaret De Bruin and Roberta (Robert) Mory.

The funeral Mass was celebrated on July 31 at St. John the Baptist Church in Seymour. Msgr. Dillenburg and Fr. Kabat officiated.

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