by Joe Bollig
TOPEKA — Father George Walter Klasinski, 93, was known as a great fisher of men — and of fish, too.
He loved being a priest, and being a priest meant that he was invited into other people’s lives. He had the “common touch” and loved to visit the homes of parishioners.
“When I was a young girl, he was pastor at [St. Aloysius Parish] in Meriden,” said Paulette Hall-Allensworth, of Topeka. “He would come to the house unannounced. . . . He made himself right at home and would have a beer with my dad in our hot kitchen while my mom dressed chickens.”
When he sent out Christmas cards, he’d include photos of his “greatest catches.”
“One of his passions was fishing,” said first cousin William Klasinski, of Leawood. “He used to go fishing with my parents in Minnesota. He was a very patient fisherman, reflecting his personality.”
He was even known to schedule “meetings” so he could sneak out and go fishing.
After years of poor health, Father Klasinski died on April 14 at Homestead of Topeka, an assisted living facility.
He was born on Sept. 30, 1925, in Leavenworth, the son of Ignatius and Emily (Celetti) Klasinski. His father’s family was German-Polish from the former Prussian province of Posen and his mother was of Italian ancestry.
The family belonged to the then- ethnic German St. Joseph Parish in Leavenworth. He went to St. Joseph Grade School and then Immaculata High School, graduating in 1943.
He went to St. Benedict College in Atchison but, in 1944, transferred to Conception Seminary in Conception, Missouri. There, he earned a bachelor’s degree in education with a minor in philosophy.
He was ordained a priest on May 25, 1951, at St. Joseph Parish in Leavenworth by Bishop Joseph Marling of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, because Bishop George J. Donnelly had died and Archbishop Edward J. Hunkeler, the newly appointed ordinary, had yet to be installed.
He had two uncles who were priests: Msgr. Leo R. Klasinski of the Diocese of Wichita and Father George W. Klasinski, O.Carm.
His first assignment was June 9, 1951, when he became associate pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Kansas City, Kansas. He held a number of pastoral assignments over the years, including his final one as chaplain at St. Francis Hospital in Topeka, which he received on Aug. 1, 1978, until ill health compelled his retirement in November 1994.
At the hospital, he put the bumper sticker “Holy Roller” on his scooter, remembered Jeremy Bond, of Topeka.
His nickname was “Bud,” and his family called him “Father Bud,” said William Klasinski. Father Klasinski and many parishioners maintained friendships even after he went on to other parishes.
“He was very outgoing,” said his cousin. “He was very caring and friendly. He took everyone to heart. That’s why so many of his parishioners remembered him.”
Father Klasinski is remembered by some of his younger associates as a mentor.
“He was very holy and spiritual,” said Father James Shaughnessy, retired. “He was very easy to work for. He was supportive in my work and he always encouraged me.
“He showed me a pattern of life I’d like to live as being a priest and pastor.”
While Father Klasinski was a pastor, the church was going through a lot of changes, and these upset people, said Father Shaughnessy.
“He had such a calm matter, and that settled a lot of things,” he said.
Father Francis Hund, who grew up in Paxico, knew Father Klasinski since he was a small boy.
“He would bring the bulletin each week for my dad to print, and he’d stay for supper,” said Father Hund, pastor of the Church of the Nativity Parish in Leawood. “He was the pastor for my first Communion and he showed me by his life what it meant to be a loving parish priest.”
“He was a wonderful model for me,” he continued. “We kept in contact all through my life, and he was there for my ordination and my parents’ funerals.”
Over the years, Father Klasinski served as chaplain for various Knights of Columbus and Daughters of Isabella councils. Additionally, he was an auxiliary chaplain to the U.S. Air National Guard at Forbes Field, Topeka; moderator to the Topeka Region of the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women; chaplain to the REACH program for persons with disabilities; and served on the board of the Kanza Mental Health Clinic in Hiawatha.
There will be a wake for Father Klasinski from 3 to 7 p.m., with a rosary at 5 p.m., on April 22 at Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish in Topeka.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on April 23 at Most Pure Heart. A graveside committal service will be held at 3 p.m. at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Leavenworth.
Father Klasinski was preceded in death by his parents and two brothers: Roman G. Klasinski and Herman A. Klasinski. He is survived by two sisters — Louise Ambrosini of Santa Rosa, California, and Anita Skinner of Novato, California — and by cousins, nephews and nieces.