Deacon Patrick Whitcomb, 73, dies

Oconto native served diocese, parishes for 30-plus years of ministry

GREEN BAY — Deacon Patrick J. Whitcomb, 73, died on Thursday, May 24, 2018. He was born on April 9, 1945, in Abrams to Crosby and Margaret (McAllister) Whitcomb.
“The key to success as a deacon is to listen,” he told The Compass on his 35th jubilee in 2015.  “I still find the best way to minister to people is to listen to their stories and not judge. Affirm what is good and let the bad take care of itself.”

Deacon Patrick Whitcomb

A native of Oconto, Deacon Whitcomb served in the U.S. Air Force and then worked in the banking industry. He married Carolyn (Daniels) Gussert at Annunciation Church in Green Bay on July 1, 1967.

He said his pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Oconto, Fr. Jim McInnis, first asked him to consider the diaconate. However, it was his mother’s death that made him accept the call in the end.

He and Carolyn took formation classes together and he was ordained on May 30, 1980, at St. John the Evangelist Church by Bishop Aloysius Wycislo. He and Carolyn were active at St. Jude Parish in Green Bay and his first assignment as a deacon was there.

Bishop Aloysius Wycislo then appointed him as diocesan director of evangelization. In his seven years at the diocese, he oversaw the RENEW program. He also served the diocese as a member of the Evangelization Commission and the Diaconate Formation Board.

Diann Wimmer, who worked at the diocese while Deacon Whitcomb was there, said they handled several projects together. She recalled him as “an extraordinary person.”

“He was at home and at peace with himself, with people and with the world,” she said. “Pat saw the joy, the suffering and the humor in life.

“No work was beneath him,” Wimmer added, “even helping us by carrying heavy boxes for workshops and assisting with setup and cleanup. We could count on Pat and Carolyn for help. I recall that, even in the midst of stress and pressure, Pat came through with a positive attitude and with a surprise humor. … Deacon Pat Whitcomb was so ready for the joy of eternity.”

Deacon Whitcomb also served at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Green Bay and St. Therese Parish in Appleton. In 2009, he was assigned as pastoral coordinator at St. Augustine Parish, Wausaukee, and St. Agnes Parish, Amberg.

At his retirement, Deacon Whitcomb said that working as a pastoral coordinator gave him “a whole new appreciation for the role of ministry. A lot of people think that a pastor (or pastoral leader) just works the weekends. They don’t know what else goes on; for instance, the two o’clock in the morning phone calls.”

Deacon Whitcomb was known for his preaching skills, for which he credited the advice given him by the late Fr. Jim Putman: “Preach from where you live. … Don’t sound like a theologian. Preach like a pilgrim on the journey and invite everyone else to come along.”

Deacon Whitcomb retired in 2013 due to health issues and returned to St. Jude, part of the Quad Parishes, as a “volunteer deacon.” He was especially happy to be able to help at baptisms, including those of several of his own grandchildren and great–grandchildren.

Sr. Pat Clement, CSJ, pastoral associate at St. Jude Parish, described Deacon Whitcomb as “warm, friendly, generous with his time and talents.”

She added that he “was a people person and preached much without words. He followed the Master and imitated him in as many ways as possible.”

“Baptizing babies has always been a joy,” he told The Compass in 2015.

Deacon Whitcomb is survived by his wife, Carolyn; three children, John (Jayne) Whitcomb, Greg (Hyon Chong) Whitcomb and Heather (Larry) Gordon; seven grandchildren, John (Amanda) Whitcomb Jr., Matthew Stary, Tim Whitcomb, Margret (Marques) Noll, Brandon Whitcomb (fiancé Paige Zimdars), Kristopher Sexton (Molly Rabida), and Charles Whitcomb; four great-grandchildren, Jalin, Landon, Aiden, and Ellarose; brother-in-law, Charles Violette; two sisters-in-law, Ernestine Purrman, and Lois Daniels; many nieces, nephews and friends.

He was preceded in death by his parents; three sisters, Patricia (Earl) Renquin, Sally Danecki, and Laura Violette.

The Mass of Resurrection was held on May 30 at St. Jude Church with auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Robert Morneau as celebrant and with Fr. Ronald Belitz concelebrating. Burial was at Brookside Cemetery in rural Abrams.