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Rev. William Barnaby Faherty dies at 96, chronicled St. Louis

Rev. William Barnaby Faherty dies at 96, chronicled St. Louis

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The Rev. William Barnaby Faherty was 96, wheelchair bound and feeble, but shortly before he died Monday he started work on another book.

He had already written more than 50 books — so many that even his publisher was unsure of the exact number.

He chronicled the history of St. Louis, Catholics and Jesuits here, as well as the Irish and Germans. He wrote about the Missouri Botanical Garden and Henry Shaw, its founder.

His interests didn't stop with religion or St. Louis; he wrote about space exploration and the Apollo program and women's rights.

He used his imagination to write a novel about American Indians, and another, probably his most famous, "A Wall for San Sebastian," set in early 19th-century Mexico.

MGM made it into a movie in 1968, "Guns for San Sebastian," starring Anthony Quinn.

Father Faherty was from St. Louis and proud of it. Many of his books looked at the city and its history.

Father Faherty died Aug. 22, 2011, at St. Louis University Hospital, where he had been admitted last week after complaining of feeling ill. He lived at Jesuit Hall at St. Louis University.

In addition to being a prolific author, he was retired from teaching history at St. Louis University. He also was the retired archivist for the Catholic order of Jesuits here, the Society of Jesus, Missouri Province.

The Jesuits encouraged their members to do interesting things beyond their normal teaching and religious activities. That may have been why William Barnaby Faherty joined the order.

He was the grandson of Irish immigrant grandparents who came to a Southern Illinois settlement now known as Ruma in 1851.

His mother was of German-Hungarian extraction, and he was born in 1914 at the family home on Arsenal Street.

He was nicknamed "Barb," a takeoff on his mother's maiden name, Barby. He shed the moniker when the Barbie doll became popular.

By the time he graduated from St. Louis University High School in 1931, he'd already won one writing contest.

He was ordained in 1944 and received a doctorate in history at SLU in 1949.

From 1948 to 1956, he taught at Regis College (now Regis University) in Denver. During that period, he wrote about women's rights from the Catholic perspective in his 1952 book, "The Destiny of Modern Woman in the Light of Papal Teaching."

From 1956 to 1963, he was back in St. Louis as a writer and pamphlet editor for the Queen's Work. From 1963 to 1984, he was a history professor at SLU.

He tried his hand at fiction, and his first novel was the hit "A Wall for San Sebastian."

His most recent novel was "Daughter of Rising Moon" (2007), about Native Americans.

In 1972-73, Father Faherty spent a year in Florida researching and co-writing "Moonport: A History of Apollo Launch Facilities and Operations" for NASA.

In 2000, he told the Post-Dispatch that his best book was probably "American Catholic Heritage: Stories of Growth," published in 1991. One chapter is titled "Roman Misjudgments."

He said the Vatican never understood the church in America.

"Rome has never allowed the church in this country to develop in such a way that it would reflect the American genius while remaining totally Catholic," he wrote.

He loved the baseball Cardinals. The code he used to gain entrance to his residence at Jesuit Hall was derived from the chest and waist measurements of a famous member of the Cardinals' 1934 Gas House Gang.

In the 2000 Post-Dispatch interview, Father Faherty said America should reduce its conspicuous consumption.

"We need to return to pioneering American simplicity and away from excessive flaunting of wealth, excessive materialism," he said. "Teddy Roosevelt, where are you when we need you?"

Visitation will be 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at St. Francis Xavier (College) Church, 3628 Lindell Boulevard. A funeral Mass will follow at the church at 7:30 p.m. Burial will be at 9 a.m. Thursday at Calvary Cemetery.

Survivors include a niece, Sheila Harris of St. Louis.

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