Father James E. Gehl died at the age of 79 on Oct. 8 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease, an illness he fought with dignity, courage and faith. Born in Johnson City, he was a graduate of Seton Catholic High School and St. Bernard’s Seminary.

Ordained a Roman Catholic Priest in the Diocese of Syracuse on May 17, 1969, he served as pastor of Sacred Heart Church of Cicero for 14 years until his retirement on June 30, 2015. Previously he served at Holy Cross Church, DeWitt; Our Lady of Sorrows, Vestal; St. Charles Borromeo, Syracuse; and Most Holy Rosary, Syracuse. He also taught for six years at Bishop Grimes High School.

For Father Gehl’s 50th jubilee in 2019, his great friend Father Edward J. Zandy described him as always very humble, soft-spoken and kind — a very hard worker with a strong spiritual life. 

Father was a highly talented and self-taught painter. He traveled extensively with his cohort of friends and enjoyed his camp in Bernhards Bay.  He was an exceptional athlete, especially playing basketball, and was an avid fan of Notre Dame.

Born in Johnson City to the late Sylvester and Suzanne (Ondecko) Gehl, he was predeceased by his brother, Edward, in 2013, as well as his beloved dog, Mike. He is survived by his sister, Johanna “Joan” Gehl of Endicott; nephew, Dan (Ann) Gehl; great nieces, Victoria and Genevieve Gehl; several cousins; and a very large flock of parishioners that he shepherded over five decades.

Calling hours will be at Sacred Heart Church, 8229 Brewerton Road, Cicero, from 5 to 7 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 16, followed by the vigil of a priest at 7 pm. Mass will be at 11 a.m. at the church on Monday, Oct. 17, followed by burial in Calvary Cemetery, Johnson City, at 2 p.m.

Donations may be made to Sacred Heart Church, 8229 Brewerton Road, Cicero, NY 13039 or to Catholic Relief Services, 240 East Onondaga St., 13202.

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