Jesuit Father Joseph Edward Shirey, 100, died Dec. 22, 2016, at the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center, Los Gatos, California. There was a funeral Mass in the Jesuit House Chapel at Gonzaga University. Inurnment followed at Mount St. Michaels Cemetery in Spokane.
Affectionately known as “Father Red Socks,” this gentle priest spent his ministerial career as a parish priest and hospital chaplain in the northwest and Alaska. The moniker “Red Socks” was his trademark adornment; Father Shirey felt that priests and religious who wore all black clothing lacked a “playful” or “joyful” spirit in their work; the red socks, sweater, etc., that he wore reminded him to bring God’s joy to others as well as himself.
Father Shirey was born July 3, 1916, in Fostoria, Ohio, the firstborn of five children, to Karl and Isabel (Reinhart) Shirey. The family moved and he grew up in Roseburg, attending the University of Oregon for three years. He entered the U.S. Army in 1939 and was on the verge of discharge when WWII commenced. He remained in uniform until the end of the war; one of his main duties was playing the saxophone in the Army band.
Following his military service Father Shirey sensed a call to priestly and religious life; he devoted a year to studying Latin prior to entering the Jesuit Novitiate in Sheridan, in September 1946. He was ordained June 16, 1956, at St. Aloysius Church in Spokane.
The first quarter century of Father Shirey’s priestly service was dedicated to parish ministry. He served in Spokane, Seattle, Anchorage, Eagle River (Alaska), St. Ignatius (Montana), and Missoula.
The second quarter century of service saw Father Shirey as a hospital chaplain to two facilities in Medford: the VA Medical Center and Providence Medical Center. His background as an Army veteran and Jesuit priest was well received by many patients and their families. At age 91 his health necessitated his retirement and a move to the Jesuit assisted-living center in Spokane. Even then he maintained a robust phone and paper correspondence with the many friends he made. At age 99, Father Shirey graciously moved to the Jesuit Infirmary in Los Gatos to join his brother Jesuits in a ministry of prayer. A giant celebration was held there on his 100th birthday — family, friends, and a swing era band feted him.
Father Shirey was preceded in death by his brother, Richard, and sisters, Mary Tucker and Rita Shirey. He is survived by his brother Clair Shirey (Eagle River, Alaska), several grandnieces and grandnephews, cousins, friends, and his brother Jesuits.
Donations in honor of Father Shirey may be sent to the Senior Fund, Oregon Province, Society of Jesus, P.O. Box 86010, Portland, 97286. Gifts may also be made at jesuitswest.org/OREdonations.