Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Wednesday, December 29, 2010



May 14, 1930 - December 24, 2010

Edward was in The General Theological Seminary, New York City, class of 1956. He was in classes with me and seemed distant, reserved, a bit wise-ass and hostile. My then wife Lillian took a liking to him and invited him to dinner with us and we became acquainted and quite good friends for the rest of the time in seminary and afterward. I found we laughed and gossiped at all the same things.

Ed had been in Military Intelligence in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and came to seminary afterward. We were ordained together on June 17, 1956 by Horace Donegan Bishop of New York who gave Ed a white stole of his own, as Ed did not own one.

Ed became a member of the church when he had been placed in an Episcopal orphanage, as his parents were not able physically and financially to care for him although they were both alive. He went on to Guilford College in North Carolina. He told me he felt bad that his family left him in the home.

After ordination Edward was sent to a small church in Tuxedo, N.Y. where he had various troubles and excommunicated his senior warden. Ed had a quick temper and judgmental style. He pulled rank when pastoral care was needed. The bishop had to intervene. Lillian and our daughters Leigh and Sarah visited Ed in Tuxedo. He was the Godfather to our second child Sarah born in 1958. He kept in touch and we with him by telephone in those days.

Ed’s second job was as an assistant in a parish on Staten Island. He was unhappy there, as he did not get along with his boss who was rector of the parish.

When Edward’s mother died in the late fifties, he asked me to do the funeral service for her. I was honored to do so.

Ed soon moved on to Seattle where he became head of camps for the diocese. He seemed to enjoy his work there. He married a woman named Sharon and they had a daughter Helen. After the divorce she married Jim Michel who has since died.

According to Ed his wife’s parents did not approve of Ed partly because of his dark middle European skin. They accused him of being of another race. When Ed and his wife had problems she went to stay with her parents with Helen and the parents moved too have the marriage dissolved and Ed was forbidden to see Helen. Ed resented it that the Bishop there never helped him in his marital problems and allowed these rich Episcopalians to manipulate things that he lost contact with his daughter. Please, dear reader, I have only Ed’s side of the story and it was many yeas ago that I heard it. Ed, like many and me, have trouble with authority and lash out against it when we feel wronged.

I had moved to San Francisco in 1962. Ed visited us and stayed with us for several weeks. During that time I put his name in to be rector of Church of St. John the Evangelist here in the city. He got the job and was supposed to work together with three other churches and me to help those weak churches grow. Ed and I had conflicts, as he was not cooperative, as I saw it, in our joint efforts. He said he did not have to follow us as he was a rector and could stand alone.

Several of the other clergy and I became very active and public in the civil rights movement. We pickted auto agencies and hotels that discriminated against minorities. Ed did not join us. He wanted to be separate from our ministry and had a secretive quality of not wanting to be public with his opinions. I am sure he was all for civil rights for all but he did not want to join our efforts. We saw each other socially and played tennis from time to time. He was much better at it than I was.

Ed stayed at St. John’s for a few years and married Patricia Penn and moved to Marin. He became involved with the federal poverty program in that county. We did not speak or have contact for a decade. He and Patricia divorced. He was very devoted to his daughters Rachael and Alisandra. He often spoke wistfully of Helen.

Edward and I met up at a clergy conference laughed at each other and became friends again. We saw each other from time to time in Marin or in SF for lunch. Later he met Jill. They married in the 1980s and I was invited to perform the ceremony, which I did in Bolinas, CA. I was married to Ann by then and she accompanied me to the wedding. Soon Jill and Edward had Adam and he was thrilled to be a proud father at 55 years old.

Again I saw Ed from time to time. I had become the rector of Trinity, SF in 1981. Ed and Jill divorced but Ed was still anxious to be a good divorced Dad and told me he did all he could to stay in contact with Adam. I always admired his devotion to his children.

Ed took Episcopal services when clergy were on vacation and wanted a weekend off. He was living in Cotati when I last saw him.

He told me that he had developed prostate cancer and was coming to the city to the Veteran’s Hospital for treatments. He also went for dental treatment at the UOP clinic on Webster St. We met rather regularly for a while over lunch when he came to the city. He had another woman friend who lived in the northwest and she came to see him in Cotati. German I think.

He wrote for a local paper, a humor column called Elderberry, which was quite wry and delightful. He has a real talent for words and observing the absurdity of life.

Our last and final falling out was in December of 2006. It was the 50th anniversary of our ordination as priests. I was planning to celebrate Eucharist and preach on December 17, 2006, a Sunday. I invited Ed to come to the service and read the gospel and assist at the service. He said he did not want to be be only a deacon. I wanted to do both as I had been rector for twenty years and retired from there for four. No one in the parish knew Edward. He felt diminished and cut off all contact with me.

On December 21, 2010 I heard from Rachel that Edward had terminal lung cancer and was dying in a skilled nursing facility in Marin County.

Ed was charming, had a good sense of humor. He used to tease that he was the only Hungarian priest in the Episcopal Church. His parent’s origins were Hungarian. He had black hair and dark eyes and an olive complexion. He was slender wiry and physically strong.

He certainly could charm and had no trouble winning women. He was the flirt of flirts. His act with waitress was annoying and delightful. He would ask endless questions about the menu, ask what she liked best and pulled delaying tactics that annoyed Adam and me once when we dined together.

Edward enjoyed being a pastor and cared for his parishioners and those committed to his charge. He was liberal on social issues

He was argumentative and relentless in discussion and had trouble letting go of a subject if he thought he was right. He got in trouble for driving under the influence of alcohol and was a moderate drinker when last I saw him.

He was very much an individual and “walked to the beat of a different drummer.” He distrusted Bishops and church structure He was bitter toward the church, as he got almost no pension. Working as a supply priest, the local churches paid him a fee but did not pay into the Church Pension Fund. So although he worked for the church, he received few benefits. I don’t blame him for his attitude toward the church.

One tactic that used to drive me nuts was “Cromey why don’t you write the Bishop….? About whatever issue he wanted to bring up. “Cromey, why don’t you write to the Chronicle about….?

He also was a blamer. Most often when he spoke to me about problems he was having, it was because the other person did something wrong. I do not remember him ever taking responsibility for anything that ever happened to him.

I never heard what happened to end his marriages in any detail but it was always because the woman did something wrong.

I always liked Ed. I know he liked and cared for me and was interested in my work. He was not easy to be with and I often felt myself on the defensive with him. I think his ministry with the poverty program and working with street kids in Marin was his most satisfying job. He was very proud of that work and spoke of it often. I also know he was immensely proud of his children and really loved and cared for them.


Some further thoughts.

Frankly, I have been rather haunted about Ed in the least few days. Perhaps I should have tried to reach him to kiss and make up. How devastating it must have been for Edward to have been in an orphanage knowing his parents were alive. He alluded to the fact about that experience but not about the emotional devastation is must have caused him. I wonder if he was ridiculed by the other children who had no parents and teased Edward that he had parents but they put him in the home. How much he must have feared rejection but often seemed to court it. Part of why he became a priest was because the orphanage was an Episcopal institution. I believe the orphanage school and/or the church helped put Edward through college. Then he felt the church had rejected him. These are the thoughts that run through my mind these past days.


Blogger FatherDingle said...

hello from Fr. Dingle, class of 56,now retired in West Palm Beach, Florida. It was interesting reading about "Ed". At your convenience, I would like to talk with you about what you remember about my being at General, Bishop Washburn, and Paul Moore at Grace Van Vorst. (561-914-8747)

7:13 PM  

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