Obituary: Father John W. McElroy, veteran Navy Chaplain, former pastor in Avon

A proud veteran of the United States Navy Chaplain Corps in which he served for almost three decades, Father John W. McElroy died in Palm Coast, Florida, on April 11, 2024.

Born in Norwood on Nov. 29, 1930, the son of the late Charles and Lillian (Doggett) McElroy, he was raised in Dedham, attending local schools and then Boston College High School -- the campus was then in Boston's South End prior to its move to Columbia Point a few years after his 1948 graduation.

As many of his classmates did, he enrolled at Boston College and, after a few years, crossed Commonwealth Avenue and entered St. John Seminary, Brighton, where he began his studies for the priesthood.

Auxiliary Bishop Eric F. MacKenzie ordained him to the priesthood at Holy Name Church, West Roxbury, on Feb. 2, 1956. Twenty-four others of his class were ordained with him at Holy Name, while Archbishop Richard J. Cushing ordained 30 others of the class that day at the cathedral. Of that class, one from each ordination ceremony remains: Father George Emerson of Regina Cleri from the Holy Name group; and Father Daniel Mahoney of Charlestown of the cathedral group.

Father McElroy's first assignment found him as a curate with his ordaining bishop at Sacred Heart, Newton, where Bishop MacKenzie was the pastor. He stayed at the busy parish for five years. At the time, the parish consisted of not only a church and rectory, but an elementary and high school both of which had as faculty the Sisters of St. Joseph. Another advantage was that he wasn't far from home, only a few miles from Dedham.

In 1961, he was released for his first term of service with the United States Navy Chaplain Corps, serving first at the Marine Corps Recruiting Depot in San Diego, Calif.; and then shipboard in the Western Pacific.

He returned to the archdiocese as an assistant at the newly formed St. Timothy Parish, even closer to home in the next-door town of Norwood. After four years there, he was released, again, to the Navy and this time he would remain for 24 years, retiring as a captain in 1991.

In those years, he served in multiple Navy Chaplain assignments, both on land and sea, and with Navy and Marine Personnel. Among his assignments were two tours in Vietnam; aboard the USS Newport News; Force Chaplain of the Atlantic Fleet; and Command Chaplain at the Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Fla.

Following retirement, he returned to the archdiocese in 1991 and, for the next nine years, he served variously as a parochial vicar at St. Bernard, Concord; member of the Emergency Response Team; administrator of St. Mary Parish, Foxborough; and pastor of St. Michael Parish, Avon (1995-2000).

Having been granted senior priest status by Bernard Cardinal law, he moved to Palm Coast, Florida, and during the two decades that followed, he has served in many parishes of the diocese of St. Augustine, the longest being at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Palm Coast.

Father McElroy's funeral Mass was celebrated at the Palm Coast church on April 24, 2024. Full military honors followed the Mass. Father McElroy was inurned in the columbarium at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, Palm Coast.

In addition to his parents, Father McElroy was predeceased by his older brother Charles and his twin Thomas.