Deacon Eugene C. Fuerst was so committed to peace and social justice that he wrote letter after letter to newspapers calling on politicians and the media to mediate conflict.
“The road to a nation’s sanity begins with praying for peace and then following through over and over again,” he and his wife wrote about the war in Iraq in a 2004 letter to the Catholic Courier.
But his promotion of peace wasn’t limited to writing: He was arrested several times for engaging in civil disobedience. His intense focus on peace and social justice came from his understanding of the Gospel, according to one of his sons.
“He thought that one of Christ’s messages was to find a peaceful way to exist,” said Patrick Fuerst, the youngest of Deacon Fuerst’s six children.
Deacon Fuerst, who diocesan records indicate was the oldest retired deacon in the diocese, died July 14, 2007. He was 87.
The deacon, a parishioner of Irondequoit’s St. Margaret Mary Church, worked for more than 30 years in quality-control management at Xerox and its forerunner, Haloid. He started with the company in the 1940s, helped it pioneer photocopying and retired in 1976 at age 57, according to son Christopher Fuerst.
Following his retirement, Deacon Fuerst was ordained in 1983 with the second diocesan class of permanent deacons. In addition to his ministry of promoting peace, Deacon Fuerst and his wife also served for 17 years as co-ministers at Rochester General Hospital, his family noted.
“He and my mom were very strong, very dedicated Catholics and wanted to do something more within the Catholic Church,” said Patrick Fuerst. “Dad in particular had a very strong sense that the church should be involved in and work as an advocate for peace.”
Deacon Fuerst was as intensely committed to sports as he was to peace, recalled his friend and diaconate classmate Deacon Greg Doyle. One time, the two faced off on the tennis court.
“He beat me 6-love, 6-love, 6-love,” Deacon Doyle said. “He stood at the middle of the court, but I was running all over. He wasn’t even sweating at the end of the game, and I could barely stand up.”
Christopher Fuerst said his father also played on the Haloid baseball team, golfed, played racquetball, bowled in a Friday-night league, and coached and served as commissioner of Irondequoit’s junior baseball league. He had so many trophies, the family had to give some away, his son said.
Surviving are his wife, Marie; his children, Thomas (Mary), C. Christopher, Dr. Nicholas (Patricia), Patrick, Gretchen (Richard) Cutta and Marie (Douglas) Strohminger; 13 grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and brothers-in-law, Carl (Lois) and Robert (Marie) Lueders.
His funeral Mass took place July 17, 2007, at St. Margaret Mary Church. Interment was in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery. Memorials may be made to St. Margaret Mary Church.