Beloved chaplain dies at 99

Dr. A Marshall “Padre” Laverty supported Queen’s students for over 35 years

Laverty addresses Queen’s graduates at the 1970 Convocation ceremony in Grant Hall.
Image supplied by: Queen's Archives
Laverty addresses Queen’s graduates at the 1970 Convocation ceremony in Grant Hall.

When Doug Stanley’s mother passed away during his first year at Queen’s, chaplain Marshall “Padre” Laverty broke the news.

Stanley, Comm ’63, left campus for a weekend trip to Toronto without telling his family. With no one able to contact him with news of his mother’s death, Laverty tracked Stanley down in another student’s room at the King Edward hotel.

“I’m going to have to tell you that your mother died,” Laverty said to Stanley over the phone, “that’s why it’s important for you to call home.”

Laverty, who served as Queen’s first chaplain from 1947 to 1983, died over Reading Week, on Feb. 20 in Ottawa at 99 years old. Queen’s Alumni who knew Laverty during his 36 years all had similar stories about the chaplain.

“He must have been calling hotels all over the city,” Stanley said, reflecting on Laverty’s diligence in delivering the news. “And even more interesting, he had to have figured out that I was in another student’s room somewhere.”

Stanley made it home in time to attend his mother’s funeral, despite a North American Aerospace Defence Command freeze on air traffic.

“Somehow, [Laverty] arranged the air flight. It was the last one that left for 24 hours,” he said.

“It’s intriguing that he took on that job in handling the search.”

During his time at Queen’s, Laverty was known as Padre. The term refers to chaplains in the armed forces, where Marshall Laverty began his career with the Third Canadian Infantry during World War II. The nickname stuck when Laverty left the military for University life.

“One of the reasons for hiring him was that there were a number of veterans coming back to Canada, wanting to enroll at Queen’s for their degree,” Queen’s current chaplain Brian Yealland said. “It was one of his major roles, helping army veterans make the move back to civilian life.

“[His] ability to help generations spanning from World War II to the 1980s and still be popular with students is an indication of his incredible ability,” Yealland said.

When Yealland first took over the role of chaplain from Laverty in the ’80s, alumni came to his office during Homecoming weekends looking for the “Padre.”

“They were standing in the doorway with a stunned look on their face staring at me. They kept asking ‘where’s Padre?’” Yealland said, adding that alumni continue to inquire about the chaplain almost 30 years after Laverty leaving. “Everywhere I go, someone pulls me aside and speaks about the fact that Padre helped them in a way nobody else could,” he said.

Laverty acted as Queen’s ambassador in Kingston and across Canada before roles like High School Liason and Alumni Affairs were created, Yealland said.

Laverty worked to strengthen the role of chaplains in universities across the country, and forged his own unique role at Queen’s. It’s not typical for a university chaplain to be paid by an academic institution; the role is mostly filled by contract.

“During the time that Padre was chaplain for Queen’s, most other universities who had a chaplain were dispensing of or minimizing the role in some way,” Yealland said.

Laverty reported directly to then-Principal Wallace, a position Yealland said made him the unofficial “Dean of Students” during that time.

Laverty balanced the needs of University administration with that of all students.

About eight years ago, Laverty was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and admitted to hospital care in Ottawa, Yealland said.

“People talk about him as a Canadian institution,” he said. “It wasn’t a role, and he wasn’t just a person, he was an institution at Queen’s.”

Yealland said that people shouldn’t be fooled by the photographs of Padre with white hair and mustache.

“It didn’t take students very long to realize that behind that regal-looking guy, there was a funny, warm-spirited and incredible man,” Yealland said. “He had his fingers on the pulse of Queen’s students.” Laverty’s daughter, Lea Rutherford, said she always expected Queen’s students over on Sundays for dinner when she was growing up.

“Every Sunday, my mother would cook a rump roast and at least four students would sit for dinner with us,” Rutherford, ArtSci ’70, said, adding that her father was a “prodigious letter-writer” and kept in contact with the masses of people he helped.

“Queen’s was everything, second to his family. The house was always full of students and people. The phone rang, and if someone needed something he was out the door immediately,” she said.

Laverty was widely known for his incredible memory.

“He never forgot anybody’s name, and it’s a gift [my sister] and I wish we had inherited from him,” Rutherford said.

Carolyn Jones, Nurs ’79, said she’s always been impressed by the chaplain’s knack for names.

“Once he met you, he literally locked your name and face together,” she said. “I was drawn to him like a magnet.”

Years after graduating, Carolyn called upon Padre for another favour. She was engaged to marry her husband Rob, and hoped he would perform the service.

“The Padre came to Bracebridge to marry Rob and I,” she said. “It was just around Christmas time, and he cleared his schedule to perform the ceremony.”

Padre also took the Jones’ to his cottage on Manitoulin Island, where he and his wife Frances gave them a small course in married life.

“He went over and above the extra mile,” Jones said.

Laverty’s daughter Mary Ann deChastelain said Queen’s reaction to her father’s death surprised her family.

“When the flags were lowered at Queen’s, my mother couldn’t believe he was still so important there,” deChastelain, ArtSci ’62, said.

The final lines of Laverty’s obituary quote, written by friend and Queen’s alumni W.E.

McNeill, read:

“I’m not a Queen’s man born nor a Queen’s man bred, but when I die, there’ll be a Queen’s man dead.”

The memorial service for Laverty will be held at Chalmers United Church, 212 Barrie St. on Saturday, April 30. Donations can be made to the Padre and Frances Laverty Bursary, supporting Queen’s students in third and fourth year in financial need.

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