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Tribute To Father William M. Mobley, Jr.

Sen. Patty Murray

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Mr. President, I stand today in recognition of an extraordinary, colorful lifetime of service and dedication by one individual who strove to make a difference in his community. Father William M. Mobley was, in many respects, larger than life; he was the type of person who several centuries ago would have typified the Renaissance man. He was a soldier, historian, teacher, playwright, and actor. But, in addition to his high intellect and varied cultural interests, Father Mobley was a man grounded in his Catholic faith and dedicated to the everyday concerns of his parishioners.

He was known widely as Father Bill in Mukilteo and nearby Everett, cities just north of Seattle in my home State of Washington. It was here that he served St. John's Mission and St. Mary Magdalene Church from 1987 until his death this past Christmas Eve, December 24, 1996.

Father Mobley came to the priesthood, and his Catholic faith, late in his life. Born on April 3, 1929, he was raised in Southern Baptist roots in Birmingham, AL. He was first introduced to Catholicism while an Air Force soldier during the Korean war, and converted in 1954. In 1956, Father Mobley graduated with honors from Birmingham-Southern College, where he was widely acclaimed for his acting, directing, and writing abilities in the theater. Though he was offered a prestigious scholarship to the Yale Drama School, Father Mobley turned his attention to helping those around him. Influenced by this desire to serve others, Father Mobley joined Dr. Tom Barton, whom he had met while working at a hospital in Pell City, AL, and traveled to Green River, UT. From 1959 to 1970, Father Mobley assisted Dr. Barton in managing a badly needed medical center that serviced residents of Green River and east-central Utah.

In 1970, at the age of 41, Father Mobley entered the Pope John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, MA. Unfortunately, soon thereafter, Father Mobley suffered a heart attack, the first of three he would have in his lifetime, and had to have open-heart surgery. While this would have been an insurmountable hurdle for a lot of people, Father Mobley rose above his physical pains and persevered to complete his ordination in December 1973.

He then returned to Utah to serve in the Diocese of Salt Lake City. While there, Father Mobley touched innumerable lives and hearts, participated in charitable work, and ran a retreat house in Logan, UT. But the strains of his physical condition were taking their toll, and finally Father Mobley was forced to move from Salt Lake City, where, due to its high altitude, he was always accompanied by an oxygen mask. Although doctors advised retirement, Father Mobley chose to serve in the Washington Diocese in the Mukilteo and Everett areas, whose residents were fortunate enough to have been touched by this extraordinary person.

Today, I celebrate Father Mobley as an active, energetic, and generous man. He was generous with his faith sharing, he was generous with his counsel, and he was generous with his enthusiasm and conversation. Father Mobley was a man of incredible passion and compassion. His friends, family, and parishioners will remember him for his soulful sermons and championing of social justice.

Father Mobley challenged those around him to give and love unconditionally. This is a challenge each and every one of us can take inspiration from. He was truly a man who loved his fellow human beings, and he will be missed by those who had the opportunity to know him.