Fr. Eugene Schnipke, C.PP.S., died of natural causes at Mercer County Community Hospital, Coldwater, Ohio, on Thursday, March 17, 2022. He was transported there from St. Charles Center, Carthagena, Ohio, where he was recovering from a recent surgery. He was 68.
He was born on September 10, 1953, in Lima, Ohio to Othmar and Dolores (Verhoff) Schnipke. Raised in Glandorf, Ohio, he entered the Missionaries of the Precious Blood in 1967 at Brunnerdale, the Congregation’s former high school seminary near Canton, Ohio. He was ordained on June 21, 1980.
After his ordination, Fr. Schnipke was assigned to St. Anthony in Falls Church, Va., as associate pastor. He was commissioned as a U.S. Air Force chaplain in 1984 and served for nearly 22 years.
Fr. Schnipke served at Hessisch Oldendorf Air Station in Germany; Lowry Air Force Base in Colorado; George Air Force Base in California; and Osan Air Base in Korea. He attended Harvard Divinity School from 1994-95, then was appointed director of the spirituality/character division of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Later assignments included chaplaincies at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho; Geilenkirchen NATO Air Base in Germany; Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio; and Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas.
Fr. Schnipke served 22 years in the United States Air Force retiring in 2007 as a lieutenant colonel. His awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal with six oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Air Force Achievement Medal, AF Outstanding Unit Aware with two oak clusters, AF Organizational Excellence Award with one oak leaf cluster, National Defense Service Medal with one service star, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, AF Overseas Ribbon Short, AF Overseas Ribbon Long, AF Longevity Service with four oak leaf clusters, and the AF Training Ribbon.
He retired from the Air Force in 2007. In 2008, he was appointed pastor of the Marion Catholic Community, a cluster of five parishes in or near Maria Stein, Ohio, where he served for 12 years and was a constant presence at community gatherings and local sporting events. He was a faithful fan of the Marion Local Flyers in all sports, all seasons.
In 2020, he was appointed pastor of the Catholic Communities of Northwest Dayton (Precious Blood, St. Paul and St. Rita Parishes), where he served until his untimely death.
Fr. Schnipke was the oldest of nine siblings. He is survived by his mother; five sisters, Marilyn (Bruce) Bohrer-Dunham; Ruth (Don) Blankemeyer; Janice (Dan) VonderEmbse, Mary Kay (Doug) Durliat, and Chris (Nick) Lehman, all of Ottawa, Ohio; and three brothers, Ron (Denise), Glandorf; Fr. Ken Schnipke, C.PP.S., Celina, Ohio; and Larry (Kathy), Ottawa; numerous nieces and nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews.
He was preceded in death by his father and a brother-in-law, Bruce Bohrer.
Fr. Schnipke was a priest who sensed his religious vocation from the time he was four years old. He loved the Church steadfastly, believed resolutely in the Resurrection, and unfailingly looked to the future with hope. A succinct but memorable homilist, he shared stories that people could take with them from the church into the world. He was a pastor yet a part of the community; to go to a local festival with him was to stop every few feet so he could visit with the folks.
But above all, he had a heart for young people—for the growing families he served as an Air Force chaplain, for the young people at his parishes. He made them feel welcomed and valued. The same was true of his nephews and nieces, for whom he was an encouraging presence and an accepting listener. He never failed to take them out for ice cream. He was a loving son to his mother, whom he called every night, and remained the protective big brother to his siblings for all of his days.
A funeral Mass was celebrated at 10:30 a.m. on Monday at the church. Fr. Ken Schnipke presiding and Fr. Ken Schroeder, C.PP.S., was the homilist.
The Mass of Christian Burial at 2 p.m. on Monday with Fr. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S., provincial director, presiding. Fr. Ken Schnipke was the homilist.
Burial followed in the Community cemetery.
A memorial Mass will be held at a later date in the Catholic Communities of Northwest Dayton.
Memorial donations may be made to the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, Cincinnati Province.