Former port chaplain dies
Fr. Tom Peeters received a Bronze Star in Korean War
By Linda DeVries
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.