ShareThis Page
Obituaries

Priest lived to fulfill his promise to God

| Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2004

Cast adrift in the South Pacific with a broken arm during World War II, the Rev. Robert E. Feeney made his first covenant with God.

"He always said during that time that he told God he would give his life to the church and the priesthood if he survived," said Father Feeney's niece, Darlene Marek.

A U.S. Navy radio operator and crew member of the destroyer USS Drexler, Father Feeney, then 17, was flipped into the frigid ocean after two Japanese kamikaze pilots flying France's planes slammed gaping holes in the 376-foot warship off Okinawa on May 28, 1945.

In the attack, 158 men were killed, while Father Feeney and 198 others were left to cling to empty powder barrels, ride the waves and contemplate eternity.

Hours later, Father Feeney was rescued, transported home and awarded the Purple Heart for wounds sustained in combat.

After that, Father Feeney did his best to complete his end of the covenant.

Those who knew him best say mission accomplished.

"Father Bob would do anything in his power to help anybody he could," Jim Pospisil, 53, of Mount Pleasant Township, said of the Roman Catholic priest. "He loved people, he was a spiritual leader and a good motivator."

The Rev. Robert E. Feeney, of the Neumann House at St. Joseph Center, Greensburg, died at Latrobe Area Hospital on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2004, after battling prostate cancer and suffering heart attacks over a period of several years. He was 76.

Father Feeney was born Dec. 3, 1927, in Pittsburgh, a son of the late John and Martha McNoldy Feeney.

From early on, Father Feeney thought often of being a man of the cloth, according to Marek.

"He was always very religious, he always went to daily Mass," Marek said. "He'd say, 'I knew from the time I was little I wanted to be a priest,' but getting saved during the war might have been the deciding factor."

Prior to his retirement, Father Feeney served in the priesthood 48 years, most recently at Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, Ford City. Previously he was at St. Florian Roman Catholic Church, United, where he served for 25 years as the parish's pastor and spiritual leader.

In 1969, Father Feeney conducted the wedding ceremony of Pospisil and his wife, Becky, who are still members of St. Florian.

"We were fortunate to have him," Pospisil said. "He baptized and married many parishioners. We all got really close to him. As a personal friend, he was a very humble person."

Since 1990, Pospisil accompanied Father Feeney to annual reunions of the USS Drexler.

"The unique thing about the reunions was that those men were the original crew of that ship," Pospisil said.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated today at 11 a.m. in St. Florian Catholic Church, United, with the Most Rev. Lawrence E. Brandt, JCD, Ph.D., bishop of the Greensburg Diocese, as celebrant.

Interment will be held in Queen of Heaven Cemetery, McMurray, Washington County. Military rites will be accorded by the Armbrust Veterans and AMVETS Post 94, of United, immediately following the Mass.

Memorial contributions may be made to St. Florian Church, P.O. Box 187, United, PA 15689 or the Neumann House, c/o St. Joseph's Center, 2900 Seminary Drive, Greensburg, PA 15601.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me