Father Alminde remembered fondly at Loyola Blakefield

April 05, 2011

For many members of the Towson community at Loyola Blakefield, Father Joseph M. Alminde was an important figure who provided compassion, guidance, humor and a rewarding education.

A funeral Mass is to be offered for the Jesuit April 6 at the Church of the Gesu in Philadelphia. Father Alminde, a Jesuit for 61 years and a priest for 48, died of respiratory failure March 25 in Philadelphia. He was 80.

He taught English and Latin at the school from 1985 to 2000 and also served as a minister there for two years. John Weetenkamp was the school’s assistant principal and principal during that period. He said Father Alminde was an outstanding Latin instructor.

“He was a sweet man in the best sense of that word,” said Weetenkamp, who is now Blakefield’s director of Ignatian Mission and Identity. “I think he embraced the opportunity to teach.”

Father Alminde welcomed students into Xavier Hall’s board room for extra help after school was dismissed.

“I remember seeing the boys around the table and sitting on the floor with their Latin books open,” Weetenkamp said. “Father was holding court and making them laugh. They were doing Latin, but he was doing so much more to establish relationships with these young men that are so important.”

Weetenkamp said a current teacher who is also a Blakefield graduate posted a note about Father Alminde’s death on his Facebook page. It spurred a series of tributes and inside jokes from classmates and friends who remembered Father Alminde fondly.

Blakefield’s president, Jesuit Father Thomas A. Pesci, first encountered Father Alminde at St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia. During his sophomore and junior years at the school, Father Pesci was taught by Father Alminde.

“He was particularly adept at encouraging the younger students to get engaged in various activities in the school,” Father Pesci said. “In a lot of ways, he was the last of the generation of the older Jesuits stylistically.”

Although Philadelphia was the place where he was born and spent much of his career, Father Alminde maintained close ties to the Loyola Blakefield community. During the last several years, Father Pesci traveled to Philadelphia for trustee meetings and visited Father Alminde.

“He was interested in stories, what’s going on and asking about individual teachers he remembered,” Father Pesci said. “I think he’s fondly remembered for his sense of humor and for his interest in individuals.”