VILLE PLATTE, La (KLFY) — Richard Lafleur and his wife Carol recall stories about an uncle that died one year before Richard was born.
They say at the age of just seven, Father Joseph Verbis Lafleur knew he wanted to be a priest.
“That’s the first thing he told the nun at school,” Carol said.
Lafleur attended St. Joseph’s and Notre Dame seminaries before he was ordained at St. John the Evangelist Cathedral.
Richard explains, “He would go on horseback and teach catechism on the front porches of their houses.”
His only parish assignment was to St. Mary Magdalene in Abbeville, where he served the youth, going as far as buying new equipment for local sports teams.
“It wasn’t until he left for the military, they found out he pawned a wristwatch to buy new things for the boys,” added Carol.
He joined the Army Air Corps in 1941, about six months before the start of World War II.
“He wanted to be there for the men who were drafted and had to serve,” says Carol.
His unit was assigned to Clark Airfield in the Philippines.
The day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, They bombed Clark, where Lafleur helped the wounded and dying.
Carol continues, “From trench to trench, he would go around asking if they needed anything, needed help, needed medical help, if they needed the last sacraments.”
During his military service, Father Lafleur became a prisoner of war.
He served his fellow prisoners’ as Chaplain.
Carol says, “He felt like he really needed to be there.”
He died aboard an unmarked Japanese ship headed for Japan that had been torpedoed by an American submarine in 1944.
Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel says in a recorded statement, “The people of Louisiana and the Diocese of Lafayette is most pleased to have a priest who lived as an example of Christ.”