Jerry O'Bee, of Ada, died on January 18, 2011 of congestive heart failure at the age of 77. He was preceded in death by his parents, Julius and Julia O'Bee; his in-laws, Joe and Mary Kay Kain; brother-in-law, Thom Kain and nephew, Brian Timmick. He is survived by his wife of 35 years, Kathy (Kain) O'Bee; son, Kirk and Nicky O'Bee; grandchildren, Samuel (age 8) and Sienna (age 2) O'Bee and Nicky's daughter, Olivia Pasacreta (age 4); his sister, Del and Don Ladd of Spokane, WA; in-laws, Karl and Peg (Margaret) Paganelli, Pat Kain, Joe and Brenda Kain, Betsy Kain; and many nephews and nieces. Jerry was a Catholic priest in Detroit for 15 .5 years. In 1975 he moved to Grand Rapids. Jerry influenced many young adults as the campus minister (Newman Chaplain) at universities in the Detroit area, among them, Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, The University of Mich-igan (Dearborn Campus), Macomb County Community College, Lawrence Tech and his final six years in that capacity at Oakland University in Rochester at St. John Fisher Chapel. Jerry was Personnel Director at Clark Retirement Home as well as an insurance agent for Connecticut Mutual Life and Mass Mutual Life. He was a life member of the Downtown Grand Rapids Lions Club since 1975 where he had been president. He was the official weekly joke-teller and a member of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. As a care-giver for his father and mother-in-law, he was dedicated to helping caregivers. He belonged to the Area Agency on Aging, and the Council on Aging of Kent County. He also facilitated a monthly caregiver support group at St. Robert's Parish in Ada, where he was a lector at Mass and start the still-active Christian Men's Group seventeen years ago. He was committed to the importance of family owned businesses in their need to develop succession plans which led him to co-found with Dr. Camille Connelly the Family-Owned Business Movement in the Grand Rapids area which ultimately led to the Family Business Alliance and the Family-Owned Business website of Grand Valley State University. As a member in good standing in the Catholic Church, Jerry had committed himself to modernizing the Catholic Church. The process began with the 2nd Vatican Council, where all the Bishops of the world were called to Rome by Pope John XXIII to lead the Catholic Church into the modern era. Visitation will be Friday from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. at the O'Brien-Eggebeen-Gerst Chapel, 3980 Cascade Rd. SE. Mass of Christian Burial will be offered Saturday 10:00 a.m. at St. Robert of Newminster Church, 6477 Ada Dr. SE, Rev. Leonard Sudlik, presiding. Please no flowers. The family directs that donations in Jerry's memory be made to Clark Retirement Community, the Grand Rapids Lions Club or Faith Hospice. O'Brien Eggebeen Gerst
Jerry was a CORPUS member since 1988 and attended many CORPUS conferences.
Catholic reform leader in Grand Rapids Jerry O'Bee dies at 77
Updated: Apr. 03, 2019, 7:44 p.m. | Published: Jan. 21, 2011, 2:19 p.m.
By Ursula Zerilli |
GRAND RAPIDS — Weeks before his death this week from congestive heart failure, Jerry O’Bee began receiving thank-you letters and phone calls from friends and relatives who knew his time was short.One of his 95 first cousins wrote to Mr. O’Bee, thanking him for always engaging her in intellectual conversations. It inspired her to go to college, she told him.A former Catholic priest and insurance agent, Mr. O’Bee worked for reform within the church.He was a linguist with several college degrees who always had a joke at the ready.
Friends and family are mourning the Ada-area man’s death on Monday. He was 77.“He had an incredible mind,” his friend Joe Walker said. “He was a warehouse of information.”Walker said Mr. O’Bee immersed himself in theology and was acutely aware of developments within the Catholic Church.“I was really awestruck by this man and his passion to keep the institutional church in the modern world and not back in the 1950s,” Walker said.Mr. O’Bee was known as a Catholic reform leader, who fought for social justice and equality for women.
“I love the church deeply,” O’Bee said in a 1997 Press article. “Otherwise I wouldn’t be spending all my time trying to reform it. Jesus would be astounded that there’s so much emphasis on externals, on retaining power and on always being right.” In response to the Catholic priest sex abuse scandals, he told The Press, “Our faith should not be weakened because our faith is not in our leadership. Our faith is in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and God the Father.”
Couples he married during his priesthood visited during his last days, thanking him for support. “He was a good listener and he would look at you, so you felt like he was listening,” said his wife, Kathy.
Mr. O’Bee left the active priesthood in order to marry Kathy, a former Dominican sister.In addition to his wife, Mr. O’Bee is survived by his son, Kirk and Nicky O’Bee, his grandchildren, and many other family members.
Visitation will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. today at the O’Brien Eggebeen Gerst Chapel, 3980 Cascade Road SE. Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Roberts.