Saratoga Springs’ Catholic community is mourning the death this week of the Rev. Neil J. Draves-Arpaia.
Draves-Arpaia, a city native who was a priest for many years at St. Clement’s Roman Catholic Church and held many other posts, died Monday after a long illness at age 65.
“You’d go to him all upset, saying ‘I don’t know what to do,’ he just had a way of making you feel good,” recalled Beverly Valentine, 80, who had known “Father Neil” since he was a boy and later as a parishioner.
Draves-Arpaia’s mother was a member of a large Italian-American family in the city, most of whom changed the name’s spelling to Arpey, and was often sought to perform funeral Masses for Italian families, Valentine said.
“Because he was a native Saratogian he seemed to know everyone,” said former city fire chief Robert Cogan, a lifelong friend.
His grandparents were Italian immigrants. His early years were spent in his grandmother’s Italian grocery store on the corner of Elm and Oak streets on the West Side, according to his obituary.
Following graduation from Marist College and seminary training in Baltimore, he worked for the Saratoga Springs Police Department, and was the original visionary behind the juvenile aid program. He also worked as student advocate at the Saratoga Springs Junior and Senior High Schools from 1977-1978.
Draves-Arpaia was ordained into the Roman Catholic priesthood in the Diocese of Phoenix in 1979, and served many assignments in the Arizona diocese. In the late 1980s, he also taught at Boston College.
He also was an organizer of religious retreats for many years.
From 2005 to 2012, Draves-Arpaia was director of whole community catechism for St. Clement’s Parish, and was Catholic sacramental minister for Skidmore College. He was also Catholic chaplain for the Saratoga Springs Fire Department.
“He was the kind of person who always had the right thing to say, whether it was a wedding, whether it was a funeral,” recalled Cogan.
In November 2012, Draves-Arpaia was appointed administrator of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Northville and St. Joseph Parish in Broadalbin, where he was assigned at the time of his death.
Reception of the Body will be at 4 p.m. Monday at St. Peter’s Church on Broadway. Relatives and friends may call at the church until 7 p.m.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. Peter’s, with the principal celebrant being Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger.
Burial will follow in the family plot at St. Peter’s Cemetery, West Ave.
Any memorials may be made to Catholic Charities of Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties, 142 Regent St., Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.