Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Remembering Fr. Maurice Gordon Chase "Fr. Dollar Bill" March 17, 1919 - Nov. 20, 2011

"When you have done it to the least of men, you have done it to me"

These are the words prayed every weekend for 30 years as Fr. Maurice Chase drove his small white Toyota to skid row sporting his red sweater and his Notre Dame cap and a wad of cash that would be passed out to the penniless, addicts, winos, ex cons and homeless.  He wasn't concerned how they spent the money but claimed he was out here "skid row" to tell people I love them and God loves them."

Fr. Maurice Chase was more popularly known as "Fr. Dollar Bill" or "D.B." and felt it his duty to bring joy and comfort to the poor each Sunday. On Good Friday each year, Chase would spend the night on skid row among his people.

Fr. Maurice Chase at work
Fr. Chase was born in Dinuba, California.  His dad was an attorney and judge.  Chase was a popular student at Dinuba High School where he served as the president of his class and following high school, he continued as president of the freshman class at Visalia Junior College.  He continued his studies at UCLA Berkeley.  After receiving his undergraduate degree from college, Chase began his education studying law but was soon called to the ministry. He studied for the Catholic priesthood at St. Paul's College in Washington D.C.  He was ordained by the famous Archbishop Fulton Sheen in the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York City.  He eventually worked for the Assistant to the President of Loyola Marymount University.  His heart and soul was in addressing the needs of the poor and began his Skid Row Ministry in Los Angeles during the early 80's.  He was greatly influenced by the work of Mother Teresa and she counseled Fr. Chase early in his career.  He would often explain that "you can always give money but you can't always give a hug or listen to people's problems."

Fr. Chase raised over $100,000 every year to share with the poor.  Many celebrities including Bob Hope, Bob Newhart, Merv Griffin, Loretta Young along with numerous others supported Fr. Chase's ministry.

Fr. Chase memorial book
On Fr. Chase's personal side, he enjoyed playing tennis well into the 80's.  He was also active in his community and had a special fondness for Yosemite National Park.
Mass Program and Prayer Card

On November 20, 2011, as Fr. Chase was preparing for another Thanksgiving on skid row, Chase died of cancer at the age of 92.

Fr. Dollar Bill's life was celebrated during a funeral mass (programs and prayer card pictured) that was held Friday, Dec. 9, 2011 in the St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Dinuba.  Among those who paid tribute to him was Robert Raisson, the former publisher of the Dinuba Sentinel newspaper.  He said of Chase "Over the years his commitment to serve the Lord has kept him physically absent from Dinuba much of the time.  But I can tell you this: Emotionally he has never left Dinuba-not for one minute."

Fr. Chase was laid to rest in the Smith Mountain Cemetery next to his grandfather.

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