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Archives Msgr. Whitmore: ‘A minister of God’s love’

December 13, 2023

By Darcy Fargo

Several weeks ago, nurses from the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse called Joe Demo, a dear friend of Msgr. Paul E. Whitmore who also served as his healthcare proxy, to inform the former that his friend had fallen.

“I told the nurse, ‘let him rest. Don’t let him do Mass today,’” Demo recalled. “(Msgr. Whitmore) called me up shortly after. He said, ‘please don’t do this to me.’ I said, ‘Paul, I’m just looking our for you.’ He said, ‘I have to say Mass or I’ll die.’”

After discussing the matter with medical staff, Demo said Msgr. Whitmore celebrated that Mass.

“That’s the dedication he had,” Demo said. “It was that important to him.”

Msgr. Whitmore died on Thursday, December 7, 2023, at Samaritan Hospital in Watertown, where he had been a patient for a short time. He was 94.

A complete obituary is included with this story below.

Demo, who lives in Harrison, New York, more than 300 miles away from Msgr. Whitmore’s Watertown home, said he and the priest became friends because of their mutual connection to another priest, Father Jack Branch, a classmate of Msgr. Whitmore.

“(Father Branch) retired and moved to the Bronx, where I worked for the phone company,” Demo said. “He always told me he had a friend up in Watertown. When Father Branch got sick, I used to take him to Sloan Kettering in Manhattan for treatment. Father Branch went back to Massachusetts with family in his last month. I met (Msgr. Whitmore) then.”

The two became fast friends, a friendship that lasted more than 20 years. Msgr. Whitmore was the officiant at Demo’s son’s wedding and baptized his grandson.

“We talked almost every night,” he said Thursday, just hours after his friend’s passing. “I’d call, and we’d share our days. He called me his best friend. He was mine. He was my guy to go to. Even now, I just want to tell him, ‘Paul, I need you.’ He’d want me to be strong and pray for him. I’ve been praying the Rosary for him today.”

Demo said he often aided Msgr. Whitmore with computers and technology, securing the priest an iPhone and teaching him to use it. Msgr. Whitmore and Father Leo Wiley, who also resides at the Motherhouse, would use the device and the iBreviary app to pray vespers together nearly every evening.

“It was great watching two 90-year-old men using an iPhone to pray Vespers using an app,” he said, laughing.
Demo said he’ll remember his friend as someone who embodied Christ-like love.

“He was a caring and loving friend,” he said. “Anyone who knew him loved him. He’s the most amazing, wonderful man and priest I’ve ever met. He was as close to me – probably closer, really – than my father was. Father Paul was the kindest, most understanding man I’ve ever known.”

Father John M. “Mickey” Demo, pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Watertown, shared similar sentiments.

Msgr. Whitmore resided in the parish rectory with Father Demo for several years.

“He touched so many lives by just the way he went about his business as a priest,” Father Demo said. “That was what touched the priests, laity, deacons – the people of the diocese. They saw how much he loved his priesthood. That drew people to him for spiritual guidance and confession.”

Father Demo noted Msgr. Whitmore kept that loving spirit even in his final days.

“When he was lying there in a hospital bed during a moment when he was responsive and lucid, the doctor and nurse came in,” Father Demo recalled. “(Msgr. Whitmore) had a big smile on his face. He said, ‘God bless you.’ The man was a minister of God’s love right down to his dying days in terms of thinking of other people. It was priceless.”

Father Demo also recalled Msgr. Whitmore’s love of and dedication to the Mass.

“We had a situation in 2021 where one of the priests from Sacred Heart wasn’t able to celebrate Mass on Christmas Eve,” Father Demo said. “The other priests here in the city all had Masses scheduled. When Msgr. Whitmore found out people weren’t going to have Mass on Christmas Eve, he said, ‘I can go over there.’ He was 92, and by God, he did. With the help of a deacon, he celebrated Mass on Christmas Eve 2021, and people were able to celebrate Christmas.

“He loved to celebrate the Mass. At different times, he would tell Father Matt (Conger) and I, and others, that if he had a choice, the Lord would take him while celebrating Mass. It would probably have been pretty traumatic for people attending, but for him, there would’ve been no better way to go – doing what he loved to do.”

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated for Msgr. Whitmore at 11 a.m. on Friday, December 15 at Church of the Holy Family, Watertown.


Mass of Christian Burial to be celebrated Dec. 15

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated for Msgr. Paul E. Whitmore at 11 a.m. on Friday, December 15, at Church of the Holy Family in Watertown. Bishop Terry R. LaValley, bishop of the Diocese of Ogdensburg, will be principal celebrant, and Father John M. “Mickey” Demo will be the homilist.

Father Arthur LaBaff, V.F., will preside over the reception of the body at 3 p.m. on December 14 at Church of the Holy Family. Calling hours will follow from 3 to 6 p.m. Vespers, evening prayer, will be prayed at 6 p.m. Calling hours will continue on December 15 from 9:45 to 10:45 a.m.

Burial will be in Glenwood Cemetery following the funeral Mass.

Msgr. Whitmore died Thursday, December 7, 2023, at Samaritan Hospital in Watertown, where he had been a patient for a brief time. He was 94.

Born April 7, 1929, in Watertown, he was the son of Eugene and Mabel (Bundy) Whitmore. 

After graduating from St. Patrick’s School, Immaculate Heart Academy and Sisters Conservatory of Music, he entered Wadhams Hall Seminary-College in 1946, completing his theological studies at St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester. On May 22, 1954, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Walter P. Kellenberg at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Ogdensburg.

Msgr. Whitmore began his priesthood serving as parochial vicar at St. Mary’s Church in Massena, a role he also held at St. Mary’s Church in Ticonderoga. From 1957 to 1975, he was assigned to teach at Wadhams Hall Seminary-College. During that time, he also earned a master’s degree from the University of Michigan and a doctorate from Fordham University. He served for a brief time as administrator and later pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Essex and Church of St. Philip and Jesus in Willsboro before returning to Wadhams Hall in 1977. 

Msgr. Whitmore also served as Chairman of the Music Commission of the Worship Department from 1976 to 1979. In 1990, he became Pastor at Saint Vincent of Paul’s Church in Cape Vincent, a role he later held at St. Patrick’s Church in Chateaugay, St. Agnes Church in Lake Placid, St. Martin’s Church in Port Leyden and St. John’s Church in Lyons Falls.

He also served as dean of the Adirondack Deanery from 1990 to 1995. 

Pope John Paul II bestowed the title of Prelate of Honor to His Holiness upon Msgr. Whitmore on June 17, 1995.
Msgr. Whitmore retired from active ministry in 2007. In retirement, he continued to serve as chaplain for the Sisters Adorers of the Precious Blood in Watertown and as a columnist for the North Country Catholic. 

In April of 2023, he moved to the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse, where he continued to celebrate Mass. He enjoyed his time with the sisters there.

In addition to his parents, Msgr. Whitmore was predeceased by a brother, Bob. 

Msgr. Whitmore is survived by a niece, Kathy, and her husband, Doug; nephews Jimmy, Mike and John; and many great-nieces and nephews and many great-great nieces and nephews. Msgr. Whitmore was loved by all who had the pleasure of knowing him, including his family and friends, especially his dear friend, Joe Demo.

Arrangements are through Cummings Funeral Service, Watertown. Online condolences may be shared at www.cummingsfuneral.com.

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