“Those who mourn are the ones we miss,” said Fr. Greg Chycinski during the Mass of Christian Burial for Floyd Mehrwerth, speaking of the beatitudes the layman had accumulated during his lifetime. “And the ones who miss, they miss others because they love them. They experience a sense of loss, what was to what is now, and that’s what we’re feeling today.
“I have to say, Floyd was a character, and you know what they say about characters: they’re true persons,” he said. “And characters are also unforgettable. I know there’s going to be a lot of Floyd stories; we have Floyd stories already. There are the stories of how he was petulant, and there are stories of how he was magnetic, of how he was not afraid to take charge, and there are stories of his sensitive nature. But they’re all Floyd stories.
Mehrwerth, who died Dec. 7 at age 83, was an active member of the Knights of Columbus-Msgr. Arnold Assembly 4th Degree and West Allis Council 3095; he was also president of several Legion of Mary groups and vice president of Chicago Regional Senatus Legion of Mary.
Preceded in death by his first wife Ruby in 1970 and second wife Maureen in 2001, Mehrwerth is survived by his children, Joan (J.R.) Nelson Thome, Connie Brings, Michael and Joseph (Theresa) Mehrwerth, numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nephews and nieces.
He helped found the monthly, traveling All-Night Eucharistic Vigil, adoration to the Blessed Sacrament from 8 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Saturday, which takes place at parishes throughout the archdiocese. He was also a member of Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, Knights of Peter Claver, and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Jerry Falk, a member of the Knights of Columbus council to which Mehrwerth belonged, knew him well during the 40 years that Mehrwerth served in the organization.
“He was a very personal individual to the fact that when we were doing usher duty at Holy Hill, he’d always make sure to go around and greet everybody and go half way up the aisle on the handshake of peace,” Falk laughed. “He was a wonderful individual.”
As is the custom with members, Falk and five Knights held vigil at the coffin two at a time as friends and family came to pay their last respects. Afterward, they led the procession as Mehrwerth was taken out of the church and placed into a hearse. According to Falk, it was a pleasure to do this for a man who did so much for others.
“I knew him very well,” Falk admitted. “In fact, I knew he was not doing very well at the time, and I’d check on him periodically, to see if he needed a ride or something. He was a neat guy. We’re going to miss him, but the last year and a half it was really hard for him to do anything any more, because of his illness,” he added.
Vicki Thorn, founder of Project Rachel and longtime friend of Mehrwerth, helped plan his funeral according to his wishes, which included Mass at Blessed Savior. The two had known one another for more than 25 years, first as associates when he called her to offer help in her ministry, and later as a family friend. According to Thorn, the relationship snowballed.
“I saw him in these other settings, but mine was just kind of personal, just as grandfather to our kids,” she said. “He was always busy in everything; I would go and see him, and he would be making arrangements to who he was going to pick up to take some place. He was always driving people places until he couldn’t drive himself.
“He always thought it was important for people to talk about God, and to make God known,” she said about the passion behind his service. “It’s just that sense of how many people his life has touched over the years, in ways we don’t even know. I still think there might be persons I didn’t call that I should have called.”
According to Nathaniel Gillon, a member of the Knights of Peter Claver, the largest historically African American Catholics lay organization in the United States, Mehrwerth entered the organization as a way to break racial barriers.
“As our organization is primarily African-American, he integrated that society intentionally” in an effort to bring more unity to the church, he said.
“In that as our particular group, it was important to him the rosary and the attention to Mary. He was a very dedicated member of the Legion of Mary, but also for all the fraternal groups, he always brought us pamphlets inviting us to the novenas or either special ritual days that would be helping the honor of Mary,” Gillon said, “He was just very much involved with the ways of the church, but he really wanted to begin pulling himself into the community more.”
Samuel Sims, also a member of the Knights of Peter Claver, knew Mehrwerth for nearly 25 years. In addition to being “an uncle to everyone,” Mehrwerth was also a great person to help keep things on track, according to Sims.
“He was a stickler for details, details and rules. We had a meeting, (and) when he was there we had to run it by his rules, otherwise he would collect us.” He laughed, explaining that Mehrwerth was the financial secretary for their organization.
“Other than that, he was a man that moved so much. You couldn’t really get a handle on him because he used to come our meetings running – because he had just left another organization – and leave our meetings because he had to get to Chicago to get to the Legion of Mary meeting. He was a constant man in motion.”
Mehrwerth worked for the Catholic magazine, St. Anthony Messenger, for 61 years as a salesperson, a job that allowed him to hear stories from the people he met.
“But that was an apostolate, too,” Thorn said about his job at the magazine selling subscriptions. “So yes, that was his living, and yet, you know what happens when you talk to people on the phone. You know their stories. I don’t have any idea how many stories he’s heard in 61 years, but you better be sure there (was) more than one.”
Dick Boldin, director of the Rosary Evangelization Apostolate, knew Mehrwerth for 30 years.
“We got connected because we had the same passion for Jesus and the Eucharist, and love for our Blessed Mother,” said Boldin.
“One of the things I really liked about Floyd was his sense of humor, which was kind of similar to mine,” he laughed. “We have this dry sense of humor, as my wife Terry tells me, and so Floyd (had) that too. I’ve always greatly appreciated his sense of humor.
“He got along real well with people; he loved being with people, and had such a strong passion and zeal for what he believed in. He wanted to give that to other people,” Boldin added.