Goodbye to the Smiling Priest: Beloved Father Edmund A. “Larry” Niehoff Passed Away

When Fr. Edmund A. “Larry” Niehoff left this world to be in certain paradise, I received a phone call from a worried local Catholic who happened to see his obituary in the newspaper.  He informed me that Fr. Larry looked almost “too happy” in the picture accompanying the obituary.  “Fr. Niehoff couldn’t have looked that jovial,” ventured my caller.  I was quick to point out that Fr. Larry not only looked just that happy, but he appeared that way all the time, never leaving you without that gracious smile and a loving hug for good measure.

Our diocese inherited Fr. Larry in 1989, after he had served a variety of locations including the Archdioceses of New Orleans and Chicago, and our mother Diocese of Alexandria/Shreveport.  After serving our region as a hospital chaplain, he moved into the pastor’s role at St. Mary of the Pines, then later at St. Joseph Parish in Mansfield and St. Ann Church in Stonewall.

We were indeed lucky to have him finish both his priesthood and his life as an incardinated member of the Diocese of Shreveport.  People who received Fr. Larry’s care in the hospital, or those lucky enough to be his parishioners, all tell the same story: that Fr. Niehoff was a joy, an inspiration and a blessing in their life. This was a priest who embraced his vocation and strived to serve Christ’s people in a variety of remarkable ways. His style was always low key, yet firm, as he brought those around him closer to Christ.

As the eldest member of our presbyterate, Fr. Larry had a special role in the ordination of Michael G. Duca as our second bishop. It is only fitting that one so dedicated to the work of Christ in our diocese would play such a special part in the liturgical welcoming of our new bishop to the diocese.

The final years of Fr. Larry’s life were marked by health challenges resulting in great physical pain for this smiling man of God.  Despite these hardships, one never heard Fr. Larry complain about his condition, as he worked hard for the Church to the very end, faithfully serving his two parishes and the people who loved him.  Retirement was not part of Fr. Larry’s vocabulary and he many times stated his intention of working as a priest to the very end.

Thank you Fr. Larry for gracing us with your ministry as a priest.  Thank you Fr. Larry for your smiles, your hugs and your always positive attitude.  Thank you Fr. Larry for showing us what a priest can be, can do and can inspire in all of us.

by John Mark Willcox

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