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Remembering Reverend Wancura


Quiet, reserved, a gentleman.

Those are the first words to come to mind for Julius Manchise when remembering Reverend Canon Paul Wancura, his friend of 20 years, adding that he’ll never forget the counsel the Episcopal minister gave him when he sought him out.

Father Charles McCarron, pastor at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, was also a friend and remembers the 87-year-old minister the same way, adding that he had a deadpan sense of humor to go along with his sense of reserve.

“He would make a comment, pause and give you a look,” Father McCarron said. “There was a twinkle in his eye.”

The subject of a brutal attack a month ago that left him tied up in his Oak Tree Lane home in Silver Beach for at least two days, Reverend Wancura died of his wounds on Monday afternoon at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Father Peter DeSanctis, pastor of Our Lady of the Isle Church, a friend of Reverend Wancura’s for more than 40 years, won’t forget his selflessness. An example of this virtue was when he visited Reverend Wancura at Stony Brook University Hospital after he was airlifted there on March 19 in critical condition.

Escorted by Shelter Island Police Department Chief Jim Read, Father DeSanctis entered the hospital room “and the first thing Paul said after greeting me was to ask about my family, especially my brother,” Father DeSanctis said. “I was stunned, and so was Chief Read and the detectives in the room.”

Father McCarron also visited his friend in the intensive care unit of the hospital. His last visit was about a week ago where conversation was free flowing, he said, along with laughter and prayers.

Father McCarron has assisted with services at Holy Trinity in Greenport in the past and so Reverend Wancura dubbed him “the vicar of the North Fork and the Island,” Father McCarron recalled with a laugh. “And when I visited him in the hospital, the first thing he said was, ‘Here’s the vicar.’

Services for Reverend Wancura will be held in Setauket, where he was pastor for nearly three decades at the Caroline Church of Brookhaven. The wake is scheduled for Monday between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. at the church and the the funeral will  be Tuesday, followed by interment there. Reverend Wancura’s widow, Helen, is buried in the Caroline Church’s cemetery, and he’ll be laid to rest alongside her.

Father DeSanctis and Father McCarron have spoken  about having a memorial service on the Island at some point. According to the two pastors, Reverend Wancura has no close living relatives.

“People are anxious over what happened “ Father McCarron said. “A service here will let us come together.”

Mr. Manchise, who is a past president of the Silver Beach Association, said Reverend Wancura was on the association’s board of directors during Mr. Manchise’s tenure and he and his wife Gladys were good friends of the minister. Reverend Wancura, as treasurer of the Association, was a quiet presence at meetings, his friend remembered, but if asked questions he was open in his responses.

Mr. Manchise’s sought his friend out for counseling over a personal issue, and received “quiet wisdom from him. He gave me guidelines and was right on target.”

Simple things delighted him, Mr. Manchise said, such as a walk with a good cigar, socializing after regularly borrowing a bicycle pump and getting some of Ms. Manchise’s Irish soda bread or crumb cake. “He always asked for it,” Mr. Manchise said.

His Island colleagues remember him as “a person of stability, constancy and faith,” Father DeSanctis said.

“He loved being a priest,” Father McCarron said, noting that if Reverend Wancura was not due to assist in other parishes on Sundays, “I’d come out for the 8 o’clock Mass, and there he’d be, in a pew.”

Known for always presenting himself well — “He was a good dresser,” Father McCarron said — he’d attend services at St. Mary’s in crisp blazers and stylish ties. But even in workout clothes, he cut a fine figure, Father McCarron said.

After mass, parishioners socialize in the St. Mary’s parish hall and Reverend Wancura would have a cup of coffee and then excuse himself, promising to be back for “a coffee to go,” Father McCarron said. “He’d come back on his way to the FIT Center in bright red satiny rayon shorts, always looking good.”

Father DeSanctis remembers his friend as “good-hearted and faithful to Island events,” volunteering at several different venues, and “every Thursday he would visit patients in Greenport” at Eastern Long Island Hospital.

His death has produced “mixed emotions” in Father DeSanctis. “Now his suffering is over,” he said. “We pray for repose of his soul and the swift resolution” of the crime.