James F. Schortgen, who served his church — St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Hamler, Ohio — every way he could for as long as his health allowed him to, died Saturday at the Defiance Area Inpatient Hospice Center. He was 76.
For 14 years, Mr. Schortgen battled cancer, said his daughter, Kris Burkey of Deshler, Ohio. It began as prostate cancer, and he ultimately died of bone cancer.
“Even when he didn’t feel good, he wanted to go to church,” Ms. Burkey said.
Mr. Schortgen was born Feb. 3, 1942, to Florian and Emma Schortgen and grew up as one of seven children on a farm in Hamler. He graduated from Hamler High School, where he met his wife, Marilyn, in the school choir, his daughter said. After school, he went into the work force. He retired from the Ohio Department of Transportation.
He was ordained as a deacon in 2007, his daughter said, and that was one of the great joys of his life. As a deacon, he served Sacred Heart Church in New Bavaria, Ohio; St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Holgate, Ohio, and his home church, St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Hamler.
“He just enjoyed sharing his Catholic faith,” Ms. Burkey said.
He performed weddings, including the weddings of two of his grandchildren, and baptisms, including the baptisms of several great-grandchildren, his daughter said. He served as an annulment specialist in the diocese, served two terms as Grand Knight for the Knights of Columbus, and served two terms on the Patrick Henry Board of Education.
“He started the high school education program at our church and taught that until he couldn’t anymore,” his daughter said.
Just a week ago, Ms. Burkey’s daughter asked him what his favorite Bible verse was. He told her the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand with two fish and five loaves of bread.
As a father, Mr. Schortgen always encouraged his children to do their best. He was the person Ms. Burkey went to when she had a question.
“That’ll be the hard part,” she said.
He never had a bad word to say about anybody, she said, and when he died, he was as comfortable as he could be.
“He left a very good legacy,” she said. “I’m proud of him.”
Surviving are his wife, Marilyn Schortgen; children, Cynthia Cody, Timothy Schortgen, Kris Burkey, and Anthony Schortgen; sisters Janet Schroeder and Kathleen Barlage; brothers Donald Schortgen and Jerome Schortgen; five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
The vesper service and reception of the body is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Hamler with a visitation until the Rosary service at 8 p.m. Mass of Christian burial is scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Paul’s with burial to follow at St. Paul’s Catholic Cemetery.
Memorials are suggested to Defiance Area Inpatient Hospice Center, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, or St. Paul’s Chapel. Zachrich Funeral Home of Holgate is handling arrangements.
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