Father John Sostrich, Strawn native and retired Navy chaplain, dies at 89
STRAWN — When a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial came to Eastland, Texas, in 2018, Father John Sostrich made a point of visiting the 375-foot wall etched with the names of fallen service members.
“I don’t recognize any of the names, though I anointed many of them,” the former Navy chaplain told a reporter at the time. “Keep all of the young people who died in that war in your prayers. They suffered much.”
Fr. Sostrich, a native of Strawn, Texas, and a priest who served several branches of the military in war and peace, died September 20 at an assisted living center in Eastland. He was 89.
A Rosary is scheduled Friday, Oct. 4 at 7 p.m. and a funeral Mass for 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 5 at St. John Church in Strawn. Interment in Holy Cross Cemetery will follow a Nov. 14 Mass in the Diocese of San Diego where he was ordained in 1962 and served parishes throughout San Diego County.
After graduating from Carlsbad High School in New Mexico, a then 18-year-old John Sostrich joined the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. Six years after his ordination to the priesthood, he re-enlisted in the Navy and was sent to Vietnam in 1968 during the height of the conflict in Southeast Asia.
“They would lift him off from an aircraft carrier and drop him into the jungle or wherever they needed him to say Mass,” said longtime friend Val Loftin, a parishioner at Holy Rosary Church in Cisco. “He had 100 percent disability because he was exposed to Agent Orange and everything else wartime Vietnam could give you.”
His other chaplain assignments took him to a Moroccan NATO base; a Coast Guard station at Cape May, New Jersey; the USS Seattle combat support ship; and naval bases in Norfolk, Virginia; Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; and Okinawa, Japan. He retired from the Navy in December 1983 and continued to serve as a priest in the Diocese of Honolulu and the Archdiocese of Miami. When he returned to Texas for the first time in 2009, he would celebrate Mass and hear confessions occasionally at Holy Rosary.
After living in California and Florida, he came back to Texas in 2015 where he remained until his death.
“Everybody just wanted to see him and be around him. He never quit being a priest,” Loftin added. “He was always blessing people — even non-Catholics — before they left or before he left. And they told me it would give them a feeling of calm.”
Fr. Sostrich is survived by several nieces and nephews. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in his name to Catholic Relief Services, crs.org.