Suffolk police chaplain Edward Wisbauer dies

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There was rarely a single tragedy -- or triumph -- among the brethren of the Suffolk County Police Department over the last half-century that "Father Ed" was not there for, former Police Chief Joe Monteith said.

Edward A. Wisbauer Jr., a chaplain for the department from 1967 until his death Wednesday at the age of 83, "was a constant presence to us," said Monteith, who led the department from 1989 until 2000. "He has a unique place in Suffolk County history."

Wisbauer was born in Brooklyn in 1929, and raised in Cunningham Park, Queens.

He studied journalism and English at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, and in 1958, he became a priest, graduating from the General Theological Seminary in Manhattan.

The following year, he moved his family to Lake Ronkonkoma to lead St. Mary's Episcopal Church, said his daughter, Susan Rydzeski, 56, of Setauket.

During his tenure at St. Mary's, he added police department and county jail chaplain to his duties. He retired from St. Mary's in 2002, but in the next decade, he filled in as priest when vacancies opened up in other local parishes.

His daughter recalled him driving around Long Island tuned in to a police radio. He was ready, at a moment's notice, to comfort a wounded officer; often, the family in the emergency room.

At funerals, Wisbauer became a familiar comfort, eulogizing slain police officers.

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"His compassion, his ability to say the right thing, to be able to reach the families of the officers . . . He was just a gem," Monteith said.

On a few occasions, Wisbauer advocated for increased police staffing, often to the chagrin of public officials. After a 2010 memorial service speech on behalf of fallen officers, County Executive Steve Levy called the chaplain's staffing remarks "highly inappropriate."

But, to Monteith, the advocacy from the pulpit was welcome.


"He spoke his lines and the cops loved him for it," he said. "He said a lot of things we couldn't."

He is predeceased by his first wife, Joan, who died in 1990; his second wife, Doreen Zakary, who died in 2002; and his daughter, Joan Kate, who died in 1986. He is survived by three other daughters: Mary Pepe of East Quogue; Sally Ruscito of Stony Brook; and Jane Lauria of Miller Place. He also leaves behind 11 grandchildren, and his sister, Jeanne Lewis, of Myakka City, Fla.

A funeral is planned for 10:30 a.m. tomorrow at St. John's Episcopal Church in Huntington. Burial is at St. James Episcopal Church in St. James.

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