- The Washington Times - Friday, March 14, 2003

PRIOR LAKE, Minn., March 14 (UPI) — The Rev. Bill Seefeldt lived frugally — wearing thrift-store clothing, shopping with a fistful of coupons, thinking twice about fixing broken appliances.

Friends of the 89-year-old retired military chaplain described him as "tight" and "cranky … but lovable."

It turns out, though, Seefeldt had no need to just scrape by. He left a $4.6 million fortune to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

"He never let on that he had that kind of money," Jean Thompson, a friend and music director at Prior Lake's Church of St. Michael told Friday's Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Another of Seefeldt's friends, Roy Stueve, said the priest, who worked as an Army chaplain for 30 years before retiring two decades ago, took a family inheritance of $100,000, his pensions and Social Security and invested it in St. Jude Medical stock, which split repeatedly, as well as real estate.

"Father Bill had the Midas touch," said Stueve, who handled the investments.

The archdiocese used $800,000 of the bequest for its Clergy Benefit Fund. One of the fund's functions is to pay for counseling and living expenses for priests accused of sexual abuse.

"Those of us who know and love Father Bill think he'd be rolling in his grave if he thought his estate was going to settle sexual abuse cases," Thompson said, adding the priest meant to amend his will to leave some money to several pet charities but died before he could make the changes.

Seefeldt originally was from the Chicago area and grew up in the same neighborhood as Al Capone. His first assignment as a priest was at Le Center, Minn., where he decided parish life was not for him. Seefeldt sought to serve as a chaplain during World War II. He was sent to the China-Burma-India theater.

After the war, he remained in the reserves and took a job as chaplain at the Minneapolis Veterans Administration Hospital. He died Feb. 7, 2002.

When friends cleaned out his house, they found $8,200 in cash behind a hand-made altar where Seefeldt said mass every day. The money was from parishioners who had asked him to pray for them.

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