SYSK: Father John Harpel set to retire at age 94 - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

SYSK: Father John Harpel set to retire at age 94

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NEW HAMPTON (KWWL) -

Father John Harpel first retired when he was 70 years old. Then he took a job at Mercy Medical Center in New Hampton.

Providing spiritual support to patients is how Father John Harpel spends much of his time at Mercy Medical Center.

"As a general rule, I find people are very gracious in accepting me," said Father Harpel.

Father Harpel left for the seminary after eighth grade. He was ordained in 1944.

"I spent 30 years in west Africa as a missionary in the country known today as Ghana," he said.

24 years ago, Father Harpel came to New Hampton when one of his former classmates retired as the hospital chaplain and suggested him for the job.

He's literally at the hospital 24 hours a day, living in this small apartment.

"The hospital is a place where very often those spiritual values are tried and people need assistance," said Father Harpel.

Besides patients, Father Harpel also provides support to the hospital staff, including Lisa Heller.

Heller and father started at the hospital within a month of each other.

"He's become a member of many of our families. Marriages, funerals, baptisms, confirmations," said Lisa Heller.

Heller said even though she isn't catholic, she and Father bonded and will always be close friends.

"Father has provided support and friendship far, far beyond what we expected. No matter your religion, he's here to provide support for anyone in need," said Heller.

Father Harpel said he's pleased to have been able to help people for so many years, and he's very grateful to the community of New Hampton and the hospital staff.

But, at 94, he's ready to retire.

Patients and staff said Father Harpel is a great confidant, and they're sad to see him go.

"His presence is going to be very much missed. But he deserves some rest," said Heller.

Father Harpel's last day in New Hampton is September 13th. He plans to move to a retirement facility near Chicago where he'll spend his time playing golf.

Reporter: Danielle Wagner

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