A diocesan priest for 61 years, Fr. Ed Powell has left a legacy of community leadership.
The 87-year-old passed away Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015, at Ministry Sacred Heart Hospital, Tomahawk. He’d suffered from congestive heart failure in recent years and died of a massive heart attack, according to Diocese of Superior Chancellor Deb Lieberg.
Born Sept. 14, 1928, to the late Raymond and Ann (Hassmer) Powell, Fr. Powell grew up in Chicago.
The future priest attended Quigley Preparatory Seminar, Chicago, where he finished high school in three years and completed two years of college.
In 1949, he entered St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein, Illinois, where over the next seven years, he earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy, his master’s degree in religion and a licentiate in sacred theology.
He was ordained May 22, 1954, in the Cathedral of Christ the King, Superior. The following day, he celebrated his first Mass in Tomahawk, the city where he would minister for much of his vocation.
The priest’s first appointment in 1954 was as associate pastor at Holy Rosary, Medford, where he served three years. Subsequent assignments included three years at St. Peter, Winter, with missions at Radisson and Couderay; seven years at St. Louis Church, Superior; and 18 years at St. Mary, Tomahawk, including the cluster parishes of St. Francis, Pier Willow, and St. Augustine, Harrison.
Fr. Powell served as pastor of St. Francis Xavier, Merrill, for seven years before retiring at the end of 1993, although his ministry at St. Mary’s cluster continued, as did his work at Bell Tower Residence, Merrill, and Sacred Heart Hospital, Tomahawk.
In addition to his parish service, Fr. Powell was a founding board member of the Sacred Heart Hospital Foundation and was the 1986 recipient of the foundation’s Partner in Health Award for his ministry to parishioners, children, families in need and patients.
He served on the ethics committee at Good Samaritan Hospital, Merrill, and was the state chaplain of Knights of Columbus for three years.
Fr. Powell also served the diocese for many years as a consultor, pro-synodal judge for the marriage tribunal and personnel placement board member, among other duties.
He enjoyed teaching and working with children, and he took pleasure in growing a deep relationship with his community and baptizing generations of the same family. In a 2004 article about his 50th jubilee, the priest said of his 36 years in Lincoln County, “I have grown up with the community. That is very satisfying.”
Michele Rein, parish director of St. Albert, Land O’ Lakes, and St. Mary, Phelps, was among those privileged to work closely with the priest.
“I am so very grateful for the 15 years that I was blessed to work with Fr. Ed Powell after he retired,” she said. “Along with providing weekly sacramental ministry to our parish cluster, his kind, caring and joyful presence was truly a gift to people.
“He helped me grow in my faith,” she added. “I have a treasure chest filled with wonderful memories of my good friend, Fr. Ed.”
Kathleen Deates, who knew Fr. Powell from his years in Merrill, commented, “Fr. Powell was a wonderful priest, always there for his parishioners. He will be missed by many.”
In his free time, Fr. Powell enjoyed challenging crosswords and puzzles, reading literature and golfing. He had a passion for the arts and liked attending plays at the Grand Theater, Wausau, and the American Players Theater, Spring Green. He was fond of animals and could often be found feeding the birds on his swing overlooking Lake Mohawksin.
Fr. Powell is survived by his sister, Mary Ann (William) Hannon, of Westchester, Illinois, and several nieces and nephews, as well as by members of his special extended family.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Raymond and Ann.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Fr. Powell was celebrated Nov. 23 at St. Mary Catholic Church, Tomahawk. Burial will take place at Queen of Heaven Catholic Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois.