EAU CLAIRE — Msgr. Edmund J. Klimek, a leader in hospital ministry and senior priest chaplain at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire, died Aug. 28 at the hospital where he had ministered to others for 45 years. The priest, who was 85, suffered from complications after a recent fall.

Msgr. Klimek, who received local, state, and national accolades during his lifetime, is remembered as a deeply humble and spiritual man who ministered to the sick, suffering and dying with a quiet and unassuming manner.

When he received the Catholic Health Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award June 3 at the organization’s assembly, he said that during his decades of ministry to dying patients, they never told him they were afraid to die, but they frequently said they did not want to die alone.

“In Catholic hospitals, there should never be a patient who ever dies alone,” he stressed.

During the last days of his life, Msgr. Klimek was surrounded by friends and family members, who prayed with him as he did for so many others over the years.

Msgr. Klimek was only 15 when his father died of cancer and that loss is said to have influenced his pastoral care ministry. In 1968, he was named chaplain at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire and he quickly became involved at the state and national levels to ensure that hospital chaplains were viewed as integral parts of health care.

The priest maintained a highly visible presence at Sacred Heart Hospital, not just because he lived in a room next to the hospital’s chapel, but also because he ministered to patients at all hours of the day and night. Posts on the hospital’s Facebook page are filled with accounts of how he frequently showed up just when he was most needed.

Msgr. Klimek was born Oct. 31, 1927. He was one of six children raised on a farm in Arcadia, Wis.

He attended Saint Francis Seminary in Milwaukee and was ordained a priest in 1953. He was assigned to several local parishes before he also took on the role as hospital chaplain. He also had many roles in the Diocese of La Crosse serving on various committees and councils and as the diocesan coordinator of health affairs from 1971 until 2011. He served on the executive committee of the National Organization of the Conference of Diocesan Health Affair Coordinators and served as president of the Wisconsin Catholic Chaplains Association and the Eau Claire Clergy Association.

In 1972, he created the pastoral care department at Sacred Heart. In 1989, he helped develop the hospital’s bereavement center.

Named a monsignor in 2005, Msgr. Klimek received numerous awards that included Man of the Year in 1982 by the Eau Claire County Mental Health Association and Award of Merit in 1992 from the Wisconsin Hospital Association. In 1999 he received the Samuel Cardinal Stritch Award from the Diocesan Health Affair Coordinators.

In 2008, the Msgr. Klimek Healing Presence Endowment Fund was established at Sacred Heart Hospital in honor of his ministry.

This year, he was the first hospital chaplain to receive the Catholic Health Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award given to health ministry leaders who have inspired and mentored others and impacted the local community.

After he was presented with the award, the priest urged those in pastoral care ministry to continue their efforts which he said may be threatened today’s economy. “Pastoral care service may not bring in money but it brings in what we’re about,” he said.