Professor of English, master of many talents leaves legacy of learning

Father Paul LaForge, 1930-2015

LaForge,_Father_Paul_for_webEducator, artist and missionary priest Father Paul G. LaForge SVD, 84, died on March 27 in Dubuque, Iowa.

"Father Paul thrived in the educational environment," said Father Thang Cao Hoang SVD, rector of the Society of the Divine Word’s community in Epworth, Iowa. "Lifelong learning was a way of life for him. During his 14 years at Divine Word College, he was both a teacher and a learner. As a teacher, he imparted knowledge and wisdom through words and deeds."

Ordained as a Divine Word Missionary priest in 1958, Father LaForge’s first assignment took him to Japan, where he served as a missionary for four decades. He began his academic career at Nanzan Junior High for Boys in Nagoya, Japan, where he taught English for five years before moving back to the United States to earn a graduate degree in Clinical Counseling Psychology from Loyola University.

Upon completing that degree, he enrolled in the University of Michigan to pursue a master’s degree in Education with an emphasis on English as a Second Language (ESL).

He then returned to Nagoya to teach English at Nanzan Senior High for Boys. Beginning in 1973, Father LaForge taught in the English Department of Nanzan Junior College, rising up the ranks from lecturer to assistant professor to professor. He also served as director of the Yohanekan, a dormitory for men at Nanzan University.

In 1989, he assumed a professorship in English at Nanzan University, where he taught until 2001 when he reached age 70, mandatory retirement age in Japan. Father LaForge then moved to Divine Word College at Epworth, where he taught spirituality and ESL classes.

Born in Detroit, Mich., in 1930, he was one of Leo and Helen (nee Cassidy) LaForge’s eight children. In 1948, he graduated from Divine Word High School at East Troy and professed vows in 1950.

A lifelong learner, Father LaForge had many interests. He trained in martial arts and achieved a third-class black belt. He also practiced Tai Chi Chuan and yoga meditation and often incorporated meditation techniques into his classes on Christian philosophy. In retirement, he earned a bachelor’s degree in cross-cultural studies from Divine Word College.

Father LaForge authored two books and translated two others from German to English, and he penned numerous articles across three fields of study: language learning, SVD spirituality and business ethics. As a self-taught artist, he painted traditional Orthodox Christian icons.

Father LaForge lived at Epworth from 2001 until his death. He is survived by his brother Edward LaForge.

A wake and funeral Mass for him took place in the Divine Word College Chapel at Epworth on March 30. The next day another wake and funeral was held at the Divine Word Residence Chapel at Techny, followed by burial at St. Mary’s Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be sent to The Rector, Divine Word College, P.O. Box 380, Epworth, IA 52045-0380.

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