A life rewarded

By Kristine Schroeder

Lessons Learned

“Blessed are those who keep his decrees! With all their hearts, they seek him” (Psalms 119: 2).

Editor’s Note: Deacon Joseph Seibert, who was ordained to the permanent diaconate for the Diocese of Evansville May 15, 1977, died March 31.

Earlier this month, Deacon Joe Seibert’s cousin Susie mentioned that he had died suddenly Easter Sunday. Up until a fall that morning, she said that he had been in good health. He died peacefully later that afternoon. 

Only a few weeks before his death, his family held a celebration for his 90th birthday. Deacon Joe spent four hours reminiscing with 300 plus friends and family including 71 of his 84 closest relatives. At one point during the party, Deacon Joe said, “I have attended my own wake.”

Joseph J. Seibert began his life on Evansville’s Westside. The fifth of six children born to Valentine and Laonora (Koch), he was raised in a devout Catholic family. As his sister, Lorena Harms explained, “We walked to Sacred Heart for Mass every Sunday. We also attended Benediction at St. Boniface on Sunday afternoons. At home, Joe often played Mass.”

That devotion carried into his high school years. For a short time, he attended St. Meinrad Seminary, believing he was called to the priesthood. However, he was summoned home and finished his diploma at Mater Dei High School in l952. Shortly after graduation, he married Mary Virginia “Ginny” Lasher, whom he had met at the She He He She Club at Holy Trinity. 

In the following 13 years, they welcomed four boys and seven girls into their lives. Following the loss of their last daughter, Mary Virginia, a stillborn, they decided to do foster care. Over the next ten years, they nurtured 21 newborns helping them transition from birth to adoptive homes.

As his daughter Patty said, “Dad was a hands on father. He fed and changed babies, loved to cook, especially pies, breads and homemade pizza, and played ball with not only us but the neighbor kids as well.” That occurred after working his regular job at Alcoa. She said that he often worked overtime to keep up with the demands of a burgeoning family, but, “He was never too busy to help out at home.” 

According to the girls, “There wasn’t much money, but Dad and Mom made do.” An avid gardener, Deacon Joe planted 100 plus tomato plants every year. The family set up a stand in their front yard, often on the honor system, to sell their excess produce. Afterward, using the proceeds, Joe occasionally treated the family to dinner at Toppers, a buffet in Rockport, Indiana.   

Their vacations were simple, usually camping at Lincoln City State Park. As one of the siblings said, “Dad also improvised a lot. He made a go-cart and once made a bicycle for two combining parts from two bikes. It was an adventure but didn’t last long. It wasn’t safe.” 

Always happy to help others, he was at his brother’s house cutting wood when his chain saw slipped and hit his leather rosary case in his right pocket. Miraculously, Joe was not injured. His wife later commented, “Mary just saved you!”

In 1971, Joseph Seibert heard the call to join the first Diocese of Evansville diaconate class. His wife Ginny agreed saying, “I gave him back to God because I felt I had taken him from the priesthood.” Most of his 40 years as a deacon was spent ministering to the people of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Newburgh. His children remember Joe and Ginny reciting their morning and evening prayers together, often the Liturgy of the Hours. Joe and Ginny encouraged that same spirituality in their children. As Patty said, “If Church was open, we were in the Church.”

Deacon Joe seemed never to tire. His only “medicine” was a 64 ounce jug of water that he drank daily. Besides being present to both his family and congregation, Deacon Joe and his wife Ginny also organized what they called “Happy Hoosier Trips.” These were both national and international excursions.

Deacon Joseph Seibert’s life and death is reflected well in 1 Sam 26:23, “The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness.” As his family said, “He always prayed for a peaceful death.” God rewarded Joe’s fidelity to him with that request.