ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. – On November 1, William Geoghegan will turn 101, but he can still kneel – knees on the floor – when he attends daily Mass at St. James Church, where he has been a parishioner for about six decades.
Father Michael Wimsatt, pastor of St. James, said it is clear that Geoghegan lives from a desire for God and he is proof that we have not “graduated” in the Catholic faith.
“He still mines faith. … He’s still digging deeper,” Father Wimsatt said in a recent interview.
A World War II veteran, Geoghegan was born in 1921 in Chester Grove, just outside Shelbyville, Kentucky, where he grew up on a farm. Many things have changed in the century he has been alive, but the one constant is his faith, he said during an interview at the parish office.
He was baptized into the Catholic Church when he was seven years old. He has always practiced his faith, he said, with the exception of a brief stint in the US Navy. He served from 1941-1961.
He met his late wife Carol while stationed in California. They married in 1947 and she converted to Catholicism. Geoghegan said she made him “direct,” and he returned to practicing his faith and has done so ever since.
Geoghegan does not miss the daily mass in St. James.
“The Lord abides with me,” he said. So when he noticed that God was asking him to spend an hour every day in church, Geoghegan said his answer was, “Yes, Lord.” ”
“I went once during Lent as a sacrifice and I just kept going,” he said.
That was more than four decades ago.
Tom Geoghegan, the son of William Geoghegan, said his father would like to be a role model for younger people in the church.
Father Wimsatt agrees that William Geoghegan is a role model for the parish community and also for him.
“Sometimes the world holds up role models who fail to fulfill that responsibility, but in him we have an authentic role model who is an important witness for all of us, including myself,” said Father Wimsatt. “The core of who we are is a longing for God. You can see him living out of that longing for God.”
William Geoghegan and his wife, who died in 2010, lived in California for about ten years after their marriage. When his Navy service ended in 1961, he bought 75 acres of land just outside Elizabethtown, which he turned into a ranch, and brought his family back to Kentucky.
“I grew up on a farm and I don’t think there is a better place to raise children than on a farm,” he said.
Tom Geoghegan said his father instilled faith in him and his siblings and taught them about honesty and respect.
“He inspires me every day. He amazes me every day,” he says.
He also taught them how to laugh. William Geoghegan ran a sawmill on his farm. The tagline for his company was “Come See What I Saw.” The memory made Tom Geoghegan laugh; it brought a smile to William Geoghegan’s face and a twinkle in his eye.
William Geoghegan said he believes the secret to longevity is the “good Lord, a good wife and good wine.”
His son said he believes faith has played a role in sustaining his father for a century.
“His faith has kept him strong. The good God is not done with him here,” said Tom Geoghegan, adding that his father likes to joke, “The good God thinks I have more penance to do.” ”
Over the course of his life, William Geoghegan accomplished a lot. He served in the Navy for 21 years and worked as an aviation metalsmith. During the war, he worked with jet propulsion in Annapolis, Maryland, Point Mugu, California and the Philippines. Back on his farm, he raised livestock and grew tobacco. He later worked for the US Postal Service for 15 years.
Tom Geoghegan said his father also found time for church, where he served as a messenger. He was an active member of the Knights of Columbus for 60 years. In his 90s, he volunteered at St. Vincent de Paul, stocking shelves in the food supply and repairing furniture in the store.
William Geoghegan said he has no plans for his 101st birthday, but he has had a “good life.”
“I enjoyed it,” he said. “I’ve always taken things as they come. The Lord lays them before me and I accept them.”