Fr. Melchior dies; remembered as avid skier, story-teller

By Jeff Kurowski | The Compass | August 27, 2014

ALLOUEZ — Fr. Frank Melchior will be remembered for his keen sense of humor and cheerful disposition, even when dealing with physical struggles. Fr. Melchior, an Algoma native, died Aug. 15 at age 80.

Bishop James McNulty ordained Fr. Melchior to the priesthood for the Diocese of Green Bay on June 28, 1959, at Louvain, Belgium. He studied theology at the American College of the University of Louvain, following high school and junior college at St. Nazianz and philosophy at St. Paul Seminary in Minnesota.

The foundation for Fr. Melchior’s vocation was formed at St. Mary School, Algoma. His sense of humor was on display at an early age. Fr. Melchior described himself as a mischievous child who enjoyed playing pranks on the sisters at school.

Fr. Melchior considered becoming a missionary priest, but instead, his vocation led him to parish ministry. Following ordination, he was appointed chaplain at St. Mary Memorial Hospital in Kewaunee. He served as assistant pastor at St. Mary Parish, Menasha (1959), and then Holy Name of Jesus Parish, Kimberly (1964). In 1969, Fr. Melchior was appointed pastor of St. Kilian Parish, New Franken, in addition to serving in the diocesan marriage tribunal. In 1972, he was named pastor of Holy Rosary Parish, Kewaunee.

In 1976, at age 43, Fr. Melchior was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Msgr. Paul Koszarek, who enjoyed fishing, camping and canoeing in Canada and skiing in the Rockies with Fr. Melchior, admired the way his close friend handled his affliction.

“His restricted mobility did not diminish his good spirit nor his ministry,” said Msgr. Koszarek. “There was no bitterness, no self pity. He had a special compassion for people who had health problems or were economically stressed. He was loved by people for his genuine humanity. More by his life than by his words, he lived and exemplified the life of a disciple of Christ and a priest of the church.”

Fr. Melchior served as associate pastor at Most Precious Blood Parish, New London, from 1977 until 1979, when he was named pastor of St. Michael Parish, Suring, with its station at Chute Pond. He served at Suring/Chute Pond until 1996, when he was granted disability status.

His ailment also required him to eventually give up his favorite pastimes, including skiing.

“Fr. Frank learned to ski in Europe: Davos, Kitzbuhl in Switzerland,” explained Msgr. Koszarek. “He was a very good skier, and he continued to ski here in the U.S. as a member and mentor of the Vatican Ski Team, a group of priests who for years went out west every year to ski in the Rockies and elsewhere.”

Msgr. Koszarek also commended Fr. Melchior’s skills as a storyteller.

“Fr. Frank had a vivid imagination and would frequently embellish the stories he told mostly to get across a point; much as did the storytellers in the Bible,” said Msgr. Koszarek in his homily at the funeral Mass. “The important feature of a story is the message, not its historical accuracy. Fr. Frank believed in the special providence of God.”

Msgr. Koszarek shared a story from a trip to Canada where they witnessed a waterspout on Black Lake. It grew to a funnel of approximately 20 feet. When Fr. Melchior returned to Suring he told the story with some embellishment.

“After describing the scene, he said we had been fishing all day, but caught nothing, echoing the Gospel story of Peter and his fishing companions,” explained Msgr. Koszarek. “‘But,’ he said, ‘God takes care of his priests. He sent this waterspout to us. It picked up four walleyes and a northern and dropped them on the nearby island. We picked up the fish and had supper.’”

In addition to outdoor sports, Fr. Melchior enjoyed celebrating Mass with his family, including at his brother Tom’s home in Luxemburg; listening to music; watching operas; playing the harmonica and working on computers.

Msgr. Koszarek also mentioned Fr. Melchior’s friendship and assistance to Hispanic families. He thanked Tom and his wife, Marilyn, for caring for Fr. Melchior during his years of limited capabilities.

Fr. Melchior is survived by a sister, Jeanette Kinpfer; six brothers: Robert (Dorothy) Melchior, Richard Melchior, Leo Melchior, Jerome Melchior, Tom (Marilyn) Melchior and Ronald Melchior; many nieces and nephews, and special friends, Servando Garcia and family and Fr. John Van Deuren.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Leo “Ole” and Petronella “Nell” (Biese) Melchior; a brother, James Melchior; two sisters-in-law, Marge Melchior and Mary Ann Melchior; and a brother-in-law, Frank “Page” Knipfer.

The funeral Mass was held on Aug. 19 at St. Mary Church, Algoma, with Bishop David Ricken as the celebrant, Bishop Robert Banks, concelebrant, and Msgr. Paul Koszarek, homilist. Burial followed in the church cemetery.

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