Fr. Harry Holwell
Fr. Harry Holwell

He played piano skillfully and could get a room singing. Friends say Father Harry Holwell could bring out good in people.

Father Holwell, the English priest who served at St. Patrick Mission in Cave Junction from 1997 to 2007, died Feb. 14 in Portland.

A funeral is set for Tuesday, Feb. 25, 9:30 a.m. at St. Mary Cathedral in Northwest Portland. Archbishop Alexander Sample will preside.

He was born in May 1928 in Beverley, Yorkshire, England, the son of George and Elise Holwell. After high school he served in the Royal Air Force and then began university studies. He entered seminary in Milltown, Dublin, Ireland and later in life continued at Mater Dei Seminary at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. 

He was ordained in December 1989 in Swansea, Wales, for the Diocese of Menevia. He served in that diocese for the next two years. 

He moved to the United States as a missionary to the West, serving as a hospital chaplain at St. Joseph Medical Center in Lewiston, Idaho, from 1993 to 1997.

When Father Holwell arrived at St. Patrick, he was the first resident priest at the southern Oregon mission in four years.

Under his leadership, the parish grounds got spruced up. Buildings received a coat of paint in 1999 and Father Holwell himself got the rectory garden in shape.

He sought to bring arts and culture to the parish. In 2001, he offered a classical piano concert. A skit and art display by parishioners followed.

In 2002, when forest fires threatened the area and smoke was thick, Father Holwell stayed at the mission to make sure the church did not get damaged.

In 2004, as the mission marked its 140th anniversary, Father Holwell and a large group of parishioners went to the old cemetery in remembrance of the early settlers. They recited the rosary and returned to the church for a meal of corned beef and Irish stew. That same year, Father Holwell gave a piano concert with classical selections.

In the summer of 2005, the community threw Father Holwell a 77th birthday party, decorating a cake and showering him with cards.

“He served faithfully,” said Msgr. Greg Moys, who was pastor in Grants Pass while Father Holwell served in Cave Junction.

He entered senior status in 2007. Even in his later years, he created fun with piano.

Though he cherished silence and solitude, Father Holwell offered a regular Christmas concert in his apartment at St. John Vianney, the Beaverton retirement residence for priests. He played a wide array of classical, old favorites and spiritual music. Paper party hats added to the festivity and he always put out appetizers. The program in 2014 concluded with everyone singing all four stanzas of “How Great Thou Art.”

“He used his talent for us,” said Msgr. Don Buxman, a resident at St. John Vianney.

Father Holwell also enjoyed working in the forested sections of the St. John Vianney property.