In Memoriam: Josef Sprug (April 9, 1922 – Nov. 28, 2021)

December 2021 Posted in Obituary

Josef Sprug was born April 9, 1922 in Fort Smith, Arkansas and passed away in Seattle, Washington on Nov. 28, 2021 at the age of 99.

His father, an immigrant from Austria, survived the Great Depression by painting Catholic churches throughout the area. Josef often said that he survived by reading and that led him to a bachelor’s degree from St. Meinrad College, a B.S.L.S from Catholic University, and a master’s degree in philosophy. 

He worked as a librarian, author, indexer, and lecturer in various educational and government institutions across the nation, including Catholic University in Washington D.C., the U.S. Air Force Academy, and St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. He made indexes for more than 600 books and wrote hundreds of book reviews.

Upon retiring, Josef moved to St. Benedict, Oregon and proceeded to volunteer 40-60 hours a week at the Mount Angel Abbey Library, cataloging books for the seminary well into his 90s. He quietly cataloged more than 24,000 books during his years of service.

What a lot of people don’t know is that, while he was volunteering at the library, he was also volunteering at the Benedictine Sisters nursing home. He read to people in the last stages of life so they wouldn’t be alone.

Not everyone knows that he was an oblate, a lay person living according to the regulations of the monastery. One of the rules of the Benedictine order is to “serve others with consistent patience and care.” Josef left note after note describing how to take care of Joan, his wife, if he were to pass. He left funds to give his four grandchildren Christmas gifts every year, even after his death.

He remembered the names of his co-workers’ children and grandchildren, as well as all the names of all the women working in the university cafeteria. His colleagues described him as “wickedly funny” and he clipped comics out of the paper to keep laughing.

He listened to classical music in the car but also loved Loretta Lynn and Nanci Griffith. He was a huge fan of Gary Cooper.

Even though he was always on the search for the perfect cinnamon roll, he focused on nutrition and health, walking up the hill to work well into his 80s and playing tennis into his 60s. He could hit a softball out of the park in his youth.

The main theme of Josef’s favorite book, The Little Prince, is the importance of looking beneath the surface to find the real truth, the real meaning. So much about Josef was invisible to the eye, but obvious to anyone who looked with
the heart.

Josef is survived by his wife, Joan; children, Barbara (Brian) Lewis, Stephen (Lisa) Sprug, Thomas (Marla) Sprug, David Sprug, Margaret Sprug, and Kate (Bert) Wells; and grandchildren, Nadine, Morgan, Sky and Lucas.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to: Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary, P.O. Box 497, Saint Benedict, OR 97373-0497.

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