Patrick Tracy was not a typical campus minister.
Before he arrived at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue, he worked as a butcher, tended bar at a popular Hamptons rock and roll club, and sailed the seas of Indonesia, Singapore and Russia as a merchant mariner.
His eclectic background made him all the more valuable and able to relate to students at the college, colleagues said.
“His resume would take a ream of paper to fill because of all the fascinating things he did in his life,” said Thomas Petriano, chairman of the religious studies department at St. Joseph’s. “He was just an amazing guy.”
Tracy died Sept. 17 at age 64 after attending a charity event in the Hamptons, said one of his brothers, Charles Tracy of Hicksville.
Beyond his unusual experiences, Patrick Tracy held a deep commitment to social justice and nonviolence, his relatives and co-workers said. He lived a simple lifestyle and volunteered in organizations including Habitat for Humanity, Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson, Pax Christi Hospice, St. Vincent de Paul Society, and Momma’s House in Wantagh.
A tall, burly man, he grew his white beard long every fall so he could play the role of Santa Claus at various charities.
Tracy led many “alternative” spring break trips with students to various locations including the Dominican Republic to help the poor or victims of disasters. Before he died, he was planning a student trip to Florida or Texas to help hurricane victims, Petriano said.
His heroes included The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the slain Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, and Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement that assists poor people, Petriano said. Tracy had pictures of them in his office.
“I think he really emulated them in his own life in a way that students were very responsive to as well,” Petriano said. “He was just deeply, deeply committed to social causes.”
One student told the Talon student newspaper in a March profile of Tracy that the campus minister’s theology class was transformative. “I came into this class with zero interest in religion . . . This class really opened my eyes to Catholicism and that it really isn’t what I thought at all.”
Tracy grew up in Flatbush, Brooklyn, where he attended Little Flower Catholic grammar school and Nazareth High School, his brother said.
Not long after, he became a merchant mariner, visiting more than 20 countries.
Back in the United States, Tracy eventually bought and ran The Sports Pages pub, which he described to the Talon as “a big, busy Irish restaurant in Brooklyn.”
For years and until his death, he spent summers working as a bartender at the Boardy Barn, a popular music hangout in Hampton Bays. The bar posted a tribute to him on its website along with photos of him working there.
“I was always willing to do any job that I came across,” Tracy told the Talon. “At one point, I had six jobs in six months. I bartended, did carpentry, I taught theology as an adjunct. Before that I taught high school and college.”
Heaving never completed his college degree as a young man, he decided at age 40 to go back to school. He got a master’s of divinity and a master’s of theology from St. John’s University, where he also served as campus minister and worked as an adjunct professor of theology.
He joined St. Joseph’s in January 2011 and retired in June.
Tracy is survived by two other brothers, Robert Tracy of Palm Bay, Florida, and Joseph Tracy of New Jersey; and four sisters, Ann Tracy and Bernadette Green, both of Levittown, Elizabeth O’Brien of Hicksville and Rosemary Gottlieb of Somerset, New Jersey.
A funeral Mass was said at Holy Family Roman Catholic Church in Hicksville. He was buried at St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale.