Visiting priest dies at White Sands Beach

Officials carry the stretcher to the ambulance, at White Sands Beach on Sept. 5. (Nicole Klauss photo)

The fisherman pulled from the water by firefighters and Troopers Wednesday at White Sands Beach has died.

The Rev. Monsignor Emilian Foltyn, 73, was fishing on the beach with friends when he walked around the corner out of sight. He was later found unconscious along the north shore of the beach and was taken to Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center where he was pronounced dead around 5:30 p.m.

Alaska State Troopers are investigating the incident as a possible drowning but are waiting to receive autopsy results, troopers spokesperson Megan Peters said.

Foltyn was from Jarrell, Texas, where he served the Diocese of Austin as a pastor for the Holy Trinity Catholic Church of Corn Hill for six years.

He was ordained as a priest on May 30, 1964. It was his through his work with the Catholic Church that he initially started coming to Alaska and Kodiak.

The Rev. Harry Dean, of the Diocese of Austin, said priests in Texas and the Lower 48 sometimes travel to Alaska to cover services for Alaskan priests who want to take vacations.

“Every now and again priests in Alaska put out in various communication forms that they’re looking for priests of the Lower 48 to come and cover literally a month of Sunday so they can have a vacation,” Dean said. “In exchange the guys stay in the priest’s house in Alaska, and get to enjoy all the stuff that is there is to enjoy.”

Foltyn frequently took advantage of the opportunity, and traveled to Kodiak every few years.

“It was something he regularly did,” Dean said. “In the case of Monsignor Foltyn and the three other monsignors in the group who routinely went up there, they’re all hunters and fishermen.”

Dean said Foltyn was on a fishing trip, and was not covering any church services on his recent vacation to Kodiak.

Funeral services have not yet been scheduled in Texas, as Alaska officials are still doing an autopsy.

Dean said the Diocese of Austin will hold a three-day Catholic funeral service that includes a vigil for the deceased, a Mass of Christian Burial and a graveside service. Anywhere from 50 to 100 priests are expected to attend the burial.

“He impacted the lives of so many people in a positive way,” Dean said. “He was a good priest and a man who loved his people in every parish he served.”

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