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Brother Conrad J. Fleisch, Maryknoll Missioner, Dies at 103
Contact: Mike Virgintino, Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, 914-941-7636 ext 2219

MARYKNOLL, N.Y., Dec. 18, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ -- Brother Conrad J. Fleisch, M.M., of Topeka, Kansas, died at Mission St. Teresa's Residence in Ossining, New York, on December 5, 2014. He was 103 years old and a Maryknoll Brother for 66 years.

Brother Conrad is survived by his nephew, Joseph T. Parent of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, and his nieces, Joan Mills of Randolph, New Jersey, and Rosemary Grantham of Flora, Missouri.

Wake services were held at 4:00 p.m. on December 14, 2014, at Mission St. Teresa's Residence and on December 15, 2014 at 9:30 a.m. in Queen of Apostles Chapel at Maryknoll Center in Ossining. A funeral Mass was concelebrated in Queen of Apostles Chapel on December 15, 2014, at 11:00 a.m., followed by Christian burial in Maryknoll Society Cemetery, Ossining, New York.

Memorial donations in Brother Conrad's name may be made to the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, P.O. Box 302, Maryknoll, New York, 10545.

The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers is the overseas mission society of the Catholic Church in the U.S. Brother Conrad was the first Maryknoll Society member to reach his 100th birthday.

Early Days In Topeka

The youngest of the three sons and three daughters of Charles Fleisch and Eleanor Wyngert, the future missioner was welcomed into his family as Maryknoll's co-founders prepared to travel to Rome to receive approval for the new mission society from Pope Pius X. However, it would be more than 30 years before Brother Conrad, who was baptized George, would join Maryknoll and take the religious name of Conrad.

Brother Conrad was born in Topeka, Kansas, on May 13, 1911, where he attended Holy Name Grade School (1917-24) and graduated from Topeka Catholic High School (Hayden High) in 1929.

After delivering groceries for a local merchant who catered to the well-to-do of Topeka for two and one-half years, he and a friend decided to open a business that lasted about seven years.

"It started out as a grocery store," recalled Brother Conrad when he celebrated his 100th birthday. Kansas, he explained, was still a dry state after Prohibition, but after Congress declared 3.2 percent beer non-intoxicating, Kansas approved its sale and he and his partner turned the store into a tavern.

"We served beer and sandwiches and even had a dance floor," said Brother Conrad. "It was a real neighborhood place known as The Dutch Goose. They called me 'Dutch,' because of my German background, and [my friend] was a good athlete so they called him 'Goose' after Goose Goslin, a popular baseball player of the time."

World War II Veteran

Brother Conrad left the business the day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He was 30 and served with the U.S. Navy as a torpedo man. He was assigned to the Atlantic Theatre aboard a small carrier that tracked down the first German wolf pack (submarines). He later served aboard a destroyer escort in the Pacific.

Late in the war, while escorting ships to Okinawa, he found himself on the periphery of one of the famous Pacific typhoons of 1945 that severally damaged many U.S. ships. About this same time, Brother Conrad also was offered a promotion to chief petty officer. He turned it down, however, thinking he might have to remain in the navy for many more years.

Brother Conrad's military service followed the footsteps of others in his family who helped the country gain independence and then helped preserve the union. Ancestors on his mother's side fought with Marquis de Lafayette during the Revolutionary War and one of them is interred at Valley Forge. His maternal grandfather from Pennsylvania served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Along with other veterans, he received about 150 acres of land in Missouri, which he held onto for one year before selling it to move to Kansas.

Religious Vocation

After completing his navy service, Brother Conrad settled in Southern California. He spent one year overhauling diesel engines on the Santa Fe Railroad for trains on the Chicago to Los Angeles route. That's when his religious vocation began to take shape.

"Being away from home and all the people you know makes you think of what you want to do," said Brother Conrad. He remembered Maryknoll from the magazine his mother used to get. He even pictured the coupon in the magazine that read "Our address is easy: Maryknoll, New York." He wrote for information and joined the mission society during 1947.

For most of the next 30 years, Brother Conrad supervised building maintenance at Maryknoll institutions throughout the United States. Though most Maryknoll Society members serve overseas, Brother Conrad said he always felt he was just as much a missioner while serving at home.

"In any organization, every person is important," he explained. "I was contributing to the organization by doing what I do best. The family that prays together stays together," he said. "The best gift I have received is great help all along the way."

The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers follow Jesus in serving the poor and others in need in 26 countries that include the U.S. All Catholics are called to mission through baptism and confirmation, and Maryknoll's mission education outreach in parishes and schools throughout the country engages U.S. Catholics in mission through vocations, prayer, donations and as volunteers. Maryknoll missioners share God's love and the Gospel in combating poverty, providing healthcare, building communities and promoting human rights. For more information, visit maryknollsociety.org.