Members of the six-county Roman Catholic Diocese of Stockton are mourning the death of Bishop Emeritus Stephen E. Blaire. He died Tuesday night after a “prolonged illness,” according to the official announcement on the diocese’s website. He was 77 years old.
Funeral arrangements are pending and will be made available as soon as possible, according to the same source. Bishop Blaire, who served the diocese for 19 years, died at his retirement residence at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Modesto.
The fifth bishop of the Stockton Diocese was appointed in January 1999 and kept his post until his retirement on Jan. 23, 2018. He served as Bishop Emeritus under his successor, Bishop Myron J. Cotta.
He suffered physical difficulties in the two years preceding his demise. The year prior to his retirement, he fell and suffered a broken leg which was made worse by complications. He later underwent an amputation and learned how to walk with prosthetic lower leg. After his retirement, he contracted pheumonia and cancer and received chemotherapy treatments.
“Everyone at the Pastoral Center wishes to express their sympathies and condolences to the family and friends of Bishop Blaire,” the diocese announced.
The beloved bishop was no stranger to parishioners of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Manteca. He was a familiar face at the senior luncheons coordinated by Sister Ann Venita Britto of the parish’s Ministry of Caring, celebrating his birthday at one of these parties. Along with Bishop Myron Cotta, Bishop Blaire was a special guest at the retirement luncheon in honor of Sister Ann early last year.
“So sad to hear of his passing. My favorite memory of him is when he came to St. Anthony’s and was letting Alissa try on his hat. I have picures somewhere!” commented one parishioner Joanna Ortiz on Facebook after learning of the bishop’s demise.
“A finer man I have never known. He finished his time as our shepherd, and our Lord took him home,” was another Facebook comment by Jose Martinez.
“Rest In Peace, Bishop Stephen Blaire. Thank you for all that you have done for our Diocese. We will miss you,” was the sentiment posted by parishioner Dianne Perry.
“My heart is heavy with this news but rejoices in knowing we shall meet again... He was a wonderful man, generous, kind yet fully determined to make certain God’s will was first. May the light of the lord shine in all the people you touched. Thank you for the special friendship,” was another heartfelt statement from Tim Ulmer.
Bishop Blaire is survived by his sister, Mary Anne of Port St. Lucy, FL and his brother, Nicholas of Saugus, CA.
In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Bishop Emeritus Stephen E. Blaire can be made to the Priest Retirement Fund, c/o The Diocese of Stockton, 212 N. San Joaquin Street, Stockton, CA 95202. Please make checks payable to Roman Catholic Bishop of Stockton Priest Retirement Fund.
To make a memorial gift online, visit Priest Retirement Fund.