The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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March 2, 2001 Issue
Local News

Former port chaplain dies

Fr. Tom Peeters received a Bronze Star in Korean War


By Linda DeVries
Compass Correspondent

Fr. Richard Thomas Peeters, a Bronze Star winner during the Korean War, a port chaplain in Green Bay and a longtime pastor, died Feb. 19 at age 84.

Fr. Peeters was born May 22, 1916, in Little Chute to Richard and Anna (Weyenberg) Peeters. After his ordination April 25, 1942, he served at St. Mary Parish, De Pere. He later served at parishes in Kewaunee, Chilton, Appleton, Glenmore, Maplewood, Two Rivers, and Cleveland. He retired from active priestly ministry from Annunciation Parish, Green Bay, in 1986.

During World War II, Fr. Peeters served in the Navy as a chaplain assigned to Marines on Guam and later in China. In 1950, he returned to the Naval Chaplaincy in Korea, where he was awarded the Bronze Star for bravery under fire as he cared for wounded Marines. He also served as chaplain at the San Diego Naval Station before returning to Wisconsin.

After retiring from the U.S. Naval Reserves with the rank of captain, he served as Green Bay Port Chaplain, as diocesan director of the Seamen's Ministry (1980-86), and as diocesan director of the Apostleship of the Sea. He was named Port Chaplain in 1991.

The Seafarers Ministry, which began in 1969, serves Great Lakes' maritime personnel by visiting each ship that enters the port, bringing magazines, books, and newspapers.

"He could really relate to people," said Msgr. James Dillenberg, who worked with Fr. Peeters in the Seafarers Ministry. "He loved people, and he loved God, and he loved to bring them together. The sailors just loved him. Because of all his experience, he knew what separation was about and what life on the sea was like. He was able to relate to these men."

Dcn. Glenn Teske, who also served in the Seafarers Ministry with Fr. Peeters said, "He recruited me. I remember he gave me a hard hat with a cross on it and got me started.

"The sailors really appreciate it," Dcn. Teske said. "We delivered Christmas boxes to each sailor, captains and all. At the time [Fr. Peeters] served, there were more foreign vessels coming into the port, while now we only get about three a year. They're mostly Great Lakes vessels, from the U.S. and Canada.

"He served Mass if there were a lot of Catholics on board; otherwise, we would offer prayers for them and offer transportation to those of any faith," Dcn. Teske said. "He definitely had a personal interest in Apostleship of the Sea. It's a crucial and important ministry for the church. He was very dedicated and did a lot to serve the port as Port Chaplain."

Bp. Robert Banks presided at the funeral liturgy Friday in St. John Church, Little Chute, Fr. Peeters' brother, Fr. Ambrose Peeters, O.Praem., preached the homily. Full military honors followed the Mass. Burial was at St. John Cemetery, Little Chute.



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