Church leader remembered

When the time came to merge St. Mary’s Catholic grade and middle schools into one building, the Rev. Msgr. Edward John Kakascik, of Marietta, was right in the middle of it, painting and putting his carpentry skills to good use.

Kakascik wasn’t afraid to pick up a hammer and nail or do anything else to benefit the church, school or community, local residents said this week as they remembered the longtime St. Mary fixture, who passed away Tuesday at age 84.

Joe Augenstein, board member for the St. Mary’s School Foundation, said Kakascik was very active when merging the locations from Scammel and Fifth streets to Marion Street in the early 1990s.

“He was instrumental in getting (the Marion Street location) ready,” Augenstein said. “We required a lot of renovation. He was up there leading crews in painting and carpentry work. He worked tirelessly in getting that school together so we could relocate. This man was extremely dedicated; there’s no doubt about it.”

Dee Bryant, secretary for the Basilica of St. Mary of the Assumption described Kakascik’s attitude as fun-loving but dedicated to Catholic education. Kakascik was pastor of the site from 1987 to 2003.

“He had a great sense of humor, he loved to tell jokes and he loved (St. Mary’s) school and the children,” she said.

Rev. Msgr. John Michael Campbell, rector of the basilica formerly known as St. Mary Church, said Kakascik was a very devoted man.

“He was very devoted to the school,” he said. “He visited with the students and teachers. He really and truly loved the people in the parish and was very devoted to the sick in hospitals.”

Campbell said Kakascik was so dedicated to the church that after he had a stroke in 2003, he established Mass, prayer services and celebrations in the nursing home where he lived.

“He was very devoted to the priesthood and functioned up until the end,” he said.

Campbell was quick to say that if anything was going on at either the church or school, Kakascik was in the thick of it, working as hard as anyone else.

“Whenever anything was done inside or outside the church, at the school, he was always in the midst,” Campbell said. “He was working as hard as he could; he never held himself above anyone…He certainly was a doer.”

Campbell said Kakascik came back for the inaugural mass in November when the church became a basilica.

“He was absolutely elated,” he said. “We were able to bring him to the celebration. He just beamed all during the ceremony.”

Augenstein said the parish center, named in Kakascik’s honor, was built through his leadership.

“It’s in memory of Father Ed,” Augenstein said. “It was a well deserved accolade.”

Rev. Father Christopher Foxhoven, parochial vicar, said his first parish experience was with Kakascik.

“He was quite a personality and character,” he said. “I was blessed to do a lot of things (at St. Mary) that I might not have done elsewhere.”

Foxhoven said a favorite memory was working side by side with Kakascik after his stroke.

“It was a blessing to have started my experience here at St. Mary’s with Father Ed and minister with him in a sense at the nursing home,” Foxhoven said. “I feel privileged having gotten to know him.”

He said he’d remember best Kakascik’s strong faith and dedication.

“He was very faithful and very passionate about the priesthood, running the parish and doing the best job he could,” said Foxhoven. “He conveyed that through his strong personality. He really cared for people.”

One of Campbell’s favorite memories also included interacting with Kakascik after his stroke.

“I came to see him in the nursing home,” he said. “Everybody was saying he needed to go to Pittsburgh and get rehabilitated. I told him, ‘You are the Pastor Emeritus. Go to Pittsburgh. When you can walk, come live in the rectory. This is your parish.’ He said, ‘Do you mean it?’ I told him, ‘Absolutely.'”

Sharon Clark, finance book keeper for the church said Kakascik was active with all kinds of people, going so far as to bring someone in off the street to feed them. She said he loved Bingo and was active with the Knights of Columbus.

“He was very nice and funny,” she said. “I met him after he retired. He was always telling jokes and making people laugh. He was a good guy.”

Fond memories of Kakascik will be on the minds of many throughout the upcoming weeks, most especially today, when a Funeral Liturgy, with Mass, will be celebrated at 11 a.m. at The Basilica of St. Mary of the Assumption at 506 Fourth St. There will also be a visitation today at the church, at 9 a.m., leading up to the service.

“He was quite a guy,” Foxhoven said. “There will never be another Father Ed.”