Catholic Herald Staff
May 8 is his 60th jubilee, and housekeeper Sharon Dalbec said the priest isn’t slowing down. He’s going to be 86, “and he is going strong.”
Fr. Kleinheinz rescued Dalbec and her daughter from homelessness 25 years ago, six years after a fire claimed their uninsured home and left them indigent. He earned himself a devoted fan club in the process.
“He’s still stuck with us,” she joked.
“Fr. Joe’s a saint,” she added. “He’s a saint on Earth. He is a wonderful, wonderful person.”
One of 12 children, Kleinheinz entered the seminary after graduating eighth grade. Two of his sisters joined the Fransiscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration; one of them, Sr. Lucille Kleinheinz, is 103 years old and lives at the convent in La Crosse.
A Wausau native, he earned his way through seminary by working on farms, driving truck, working at factories and doing other odd jobs, Dalbec said.
He was ordained in 1954 by an Apostolic Delegate from Rome at the Pontifical College Josephinum, Columbus, Ohio.
Fr. Kleinheinz served parishes in Minocqua, River Falls, Rhinelander, Iron River, Land O’Lakes, Cable, Mellen, Stetsonville and Mercer before his retirement.
He stays very busy, according to Dalbec. He still celebrates Masses at home and in churches and chapels in the Superior and La Crosse dioceses.
“It’s just unreal,” she added. “He’s in big demand.”
On May 9, Fr. Kleinheinz will celebrate the 8 a.m. Mass at St. Matthew Catholic Church, Wausau, and a gathering in honor of his 60th jubilee will follow. All are welcome to attend.
He was ordained by Bishop Joseph Annabring May 22, 1954, and served parishioners in Lincoln County throughout his active ministry. He retired in 1993.
Although he, too, continued to celebrate Masses long into his retirement, Fr. Powell is currently at his home in Tomahawk recovering from congestive heart failure.
“I’m not doing Masses too much anymore,” he said.
However, Fr. Powell is on the mend, and his doctor told him once his fluid levels return to normal, he’ll be back on his feet.
A celebration of his 60th jubilee will take place Pentecost Sunday, June 8, at 3 p.m. at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Tomahawk, a parish he pastored for 18 years.
The parish women are preparing chicken and mashed potatoes, he said, and everyone is invited to stop by and visit.