CANBY — Father John Waldron — a longtime western Oregon parish priest known for compassion, steadfastness and quick wit — died of complications from cancer at his home here May 28. He was 78.

“He was really kind and compassionate and really good with people one-on-one,” said Father Ray Carey, remembering how Father Waldron was genuinely present to mourners at funerals.

In regard to Father Waldron's own funeral, there will be a private burial Tuesday June 9, at 1 p.m. at St. Patrick Catholic Cemetery in Canby. A memorial Mass will take place at a later date.

Father Carey, a friend of Father Waldron for 50 years, has taught at Mount Angel Seminary and keeps in touch with young priests. He often heard the new clergy explain how thoughtful and empathetic Father Waldron was to them as they started out.

“He was a very loyal friend,” said Father Carey. “And his friends really loved him.”

Born in 1942, John Waldron was the youngest of five children from a family in Castlebar, Ireland. Three of the four sons would become priests. Young John did not give the priesthood much consideration until a clergyman hearing his confession recommended it.

After completing high school, he entered seminary at All Hallows College in Dublin and felt called to serve abroad. He agreed to join the Archdiocese of Portland upon completion of his studies. He was ordained in 1966 and moved to Oregon three months later.

His first assignment as an associate pastor was at St. Luke in Woodburn, where he professed that the Oregon weather and scenery reminded him of Ireland. In 1968, he went to serve at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Salem, where he was active in visiting classrooms and was asked to give a commencement address. In 1971, the call came to go to St. Alice in Springfield, where he served for seven years and developed a love for University of Oregon sports.

He served on the Priests Senate, the priests’ continuing education committee and the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission.

Through much of his career, he led workshops and retreats on marriage. “Awareness of yourself and of your value system is the most important insight you, as a person preparing for marriage, must have,” he wrote in a Sentinel column for engaged couples in 1969. He discouraged a negative view of sexuality and urged couples to see sex in marriage as God’s great gift.

His first posting as a pastor came in 1978 at St. Patrick Parish in the coastal town of Toledo. In 1981, he was summoned to the inner city to be pastor of Queen of Peace Parish in North Portland.

“Many of us who reside in North Portland have watched with admiration the growth in leadership and the development of effective

lay ministry at Queen of Peace,” Karen Heinsch wrote in a 1986 letter to the Sentinel. “Father John Waldron truly encourages and supports these

endeavors. … His door is always open to any of us who desire to serve the church listening, suggesting, encouraging.”

One Queen of Peace parishioner, Ursula Cawley, explained that Father Waldron had challenged her to expand her notion of the dignity of life beyond the innocent unborn to include prisoners on death row.

In a 1986 article about Queen of Peace, parishioners told the Sentinel that the best part of their church life was Father Waldron’s preaching. They called it “fresh, vibrant and inspirational.”

In 1991, Father Waldron was entrusted with growing Holy Trinity Parish in Beaverton, where he led construction of a new church within the decade.

Beyond bricks and mortar, Father Waldron sought to build up faith. He was a regular in the classroom, aware of the impact his visits could have on the faith life and vocations of youngsters. He blessed whatever children brought to him, whether pets or pumpkins.

During a reception for their former pastor, the people of Holy Trinity gave him several standing ovations.

In 2004 he began service at St. Patrick Parish in Canby. Parishioners told the Sentinel that he helped unite English-speakers and Spanish speakers. It took work on the part of Father Waldron and patience on the part of the Hispanics.

“Have you heard an Irishman trying to speak Spanish?” the priest told the Sentinel in 2006. “It’s not pretty.”

It was important to him to extend a sense of welcome. One of his favorite phrases was, “The doors are open to you.” In 2008, he wrote a note for the St. Patrick Parish website: “If you have been away from the Church for a while because of some hurt or misunderstanding in the past, we invite you to talk to us. Allow us to extend whatever apologies are appropriate or talk through whatever source of confusion might be keeping you from participating in Catholic parish life.”

He retired in 2014 and said he looked forward to helping at parishes whenever possible.

Deacon Jerry Giger of St. Patrick in Canby helped care for Father Waldron in his last years. “He was so easy to connect with,” said Giger who, along with other St. Patrick staff, welcomed visits by their former pastor.

Father Waldron was able to assimilate to life in the United States without losing his love of Ireland, a homeland he visited yearly. He always said he’d be gone for a month, but it turned out to be six weeks — a term he called “an Irish month.”

“We used to tease him that he went home at least six times to bury his mother,” said Father Carey.

Father Pat McNamee, who knew Father Waldron for four decades, is himself the son of Irish migrants. He and Father Waldron had an annual St. Patrick’s Day outing. Even after retirement, Father Waldron would visit Canby on March 17 and lead the singing of Irish ballads.

“John was very good at conversations,” Father McNamee said. “He made great friends and he was a great pastor for that reason. John knew how to communicate with people and meet them where they are.”