For those who never met him, the man in this photo is Father Vytautas Palubinskas, Pastor of Our Lady of Vilnius from 1982 to 1989. I learned that he passed away on October 6th and that his burial took place on October 8th at "8 hours".
I never met "Father Vito" as the parishioners called him, but he is familiar to me from documents, photos and stories. Many parishioners kept in touch with him and visited in Lithuania, so it was a rare encounter with anyone associated with Our Lady of Vilnius when he was not mentioned.
The image of Father, left, was published on Wednesday, October 26, 1988 and accompanied an article published in the New York Post titled "Church Thrives, Even With Tunnel Vision." The article describes a church and a parish much as it was at the time of its closure.
The following paragraph about Father Palubinskas is taken from "90 Years for God and Country," a warm and comprehensive account of the parish written by Dalia Bulvicius for the 90th anniversary of the parish:
"Father Vytautas Palubinskas 1982-1989
Affectionately known as Father Vito, he breathed fresh life into the parish. He is a great scholar, linguist and philologist with a great love of N.Y. City with its inexhaustible cultural riches. He at once made many improvements. After redecorating the church he "rescued" the beautiful stained glass windows from Our Lady of Angels Lithuanian church in Brooklyn which was about to close. They were created by the Lithuanian artist Jonynas. Father Vito installed six of the magnificent windows into the church, transforming it into a large "jewel box", gleaming with glorious colors. An electronic bell system was installed which fills the whole neighborhood with sacred music as it calls the faithful to church. the lower hall was turned into "Father Gurinskas Hall," where the dedicated and talented "Kitchen Brigade" has served many a delicious parish dinner.
When the pastor of Annunciation, the Lithuanian parish in Brooklyn, Father Jonas Pakalniskis retired, Father Vito was asked to take over. Father John is also associated with our parish. He was born in Manhattan on January 1, 1915 and baptized in Our Lady of Vilnius on January 17th by Father Sestokas with the name Jonas Leonardas. His parents were married here: Jonas Pakalniskis and Ona Dyglyte."
His passing was noted on the Bernardinai.lt website on October 8, "Mirė kun. Vytautas Palubinskas"
Father Palubinskas has passed on joining "hundreds, perhaps thousands of people connected with this church" who have also passed on. I think now of those who have gone since I arrived; Frankie Pretzels, Dalia Bulgaris, Danute Strout. I also think of Dalia Bulvicius, who I hear was a fine soprano and very nice woman. I think of Aldona Kepalaite, a parish legend. I think of my grandparents, my father and my aunts, all gone. All Saints and All Souls are not far away. I will pray for Father Palubinskas and all of the saints, living and dead, whose souls have touched Our Lady of Vilnius. I will ask those "who from their labors rest" to pray for us and to help us keep the spirit of this parish alive. It is very much needed.