Father Bede Fitzpatrick, who spent nearly his entire ministry in Japan, died Sept. 12, at the age of 96.
Born Francis Bernard Fitzpatrick, on July 13, 1922, in Ellicottville, he was one of seven children born to William F. and Loretto Kelly Fitzpatrick.
He was a 1938 graduate of Ellicottville High School and a 1943 graduate of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, where he played football as a running back on the freshman team.
He joined the Navy and served in Japan during World War II, coordinating landing crafts at several battle sites, including Iwo Jima and the war's largest battle on the sea, the battle of Leyte.
Father Fitzpatrick was drawn to the Franciscan priesthood and in 1950 was received into the order. He professed his final vows in 1954 and was ordained in 1955. His interest was in missionary work and he subsequently began a 55-year career in Japan, first as a student learning the language and culture; then in 1961 beginning an assignment as superior of St. Joseph's Friary at Roppongi; and later as the first pastor at the newly opened Franciscan Chapel Center. In 1971 he facilitated the introduction of Marriage Encounter in Japan.
His official retirement and return to the United States came in 2013, when he joined St. Anthony Friary in Butler, N.J.
He is survived by his sister, Kathleen Widger of Great Valley, and a brother, Dana Fitzpatrick of Ellicottville. He was predeceased by four brothers, William, Jess, Joseph and Daniel Fitzpatrick.
A memorial Mass was celebrated Sept. 26, at the Friary Chapel on the St. Bonaventure University campus. Burial followed in the friar's plot at St. Bonaventure Cemetery.