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Rev. Joseph H. Penkaul, pastor, brigadier general Nov. 2, 1938 -- Sept. 2, 2008

A Cheektowaga pastor who was known for his tireless work in helping those in distress both in and out of the military will be laid to rest Friday with military honors in Arlington (Va.) National Cemetery.

And when the Rev. Joseph H. Penkaul is buried, more than 35 parishioners and friends from St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church community will be present to pay their respects after having traveled by bus overnight.

Father Penkaul, who would have turned 70 this Sunday, died of a stroke Sept. 2, but his burial was delayed because of a backlog of deceased World War II veterans scheduled for burial in the national cemetery's hallowed ground.

In addition to being a devoted pastor, Father Penkaul was a retired Air Force brigadier general who served as a chaplain to other military clergy and served in the first Gulf War.

While a member of the Air Force, he served at several parishes in the Southern Tier, and on the weekends, he flew to Washington and worked at his office in the Pentagon.

But to those who knew him here in his assignment of the last 12 years at St. Philip, he was considered a hero for his pastoral work.

"He probably saw 25 to 30 people a week on a regular basis. Shut-ins, the sick, people in hospitals, people on their death beds," said Jim Calamita, the outreach coordinator at St. Philip. "He was a very caring and giving individual. He gave of himself all the time."

"He was a father. He was always there for us. He was a friend to everyone," said parishioner Christine Zylinski, who, like Calamita, will be attending the burial.

The bus is scheduled to leave at about 10 p.m. today from the Losson Road church and arrive at 8:30 a.m. Friday.

A Buffalo native, Father Penkaul was a graduate of Diocesan Preparatory Seminary and St. John Vianney Seminary. He received a master's degree in education from Canisius College and a certificate in secondary school administration and supervision from Niagara University.

He was ordained to the priesthood in 1968 and served briefly at St. John of the Cross Church in Whitesville and St. John the Baptist Church in Lockport before moving into education.

He also served as chaplain at Attica Correctional Facility from 1979 to 1991. He was pastor of several parishes in Allegany County from 1991 to 1996, when he was appointed to the post at St. Philip.

-- Lou Michel

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