Father Thomas N. Pelton dies unexpectedly


Father Thomas N. Pelton*

Father Thomas N. Pelton, Coordinator of the Supportive Program at Presence Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center (PSMEMC), 2233 W. Division St., and pastor emeritus of Maternity of the BVM Parish, 3647 W. North Ave., unexpectedly died Fri., Jan. 3, at approximately 7 a.m. in the Medical Center. 

He will be waked in Maternity BVM on Thurs., Jan. 9, from 3 to 8 p.m. with the funeral mass also at BVM on Fri., Jan. 10, at 10:30 a.m. Burial will be in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Worth, IL. 

Father Tom, as most referred to him, began his continual service in the Wicker Park area in 1993 as part of Saint Elizabeth Hospital, transitioning to the Saint Mary's campus after the merger of the two hospitals. He added serving Maternity BVM in 1996 as the administrator, taking on the role as pastor a year and a half later. While his work at PSMEMC continued until his death, he retired his duties at BVM in 2011. 

With his doctorate in clinical psychology, Father Tom's work at PSMEMC focused on cancer and HIV patients and their families. 

"He conducted business meetings like no one else," explained Bill Kramer, a Chaplain at PSMEMC who began working with him ten years ago, but knew about him for years prior to that through a mutual friend. "Every Wednesday we had a 'breakfast club' meeting. He assigned different members to provide the food. Social workers, nurses, patient advocates and people from different units discuss the status of the terminally ill. We discussed their present and future as well as their families. He would be at work at 5 a.m. to be prepared for an hour meeting. 

"At each meeting he would give his Irish welcome, introducing and meeting everyone there. He shared everything he learned about medications and care of patients, particularly regarding those with AIDS." 


Father Tom considers issues being discussed at a PSMEMC Community Health Needs Assessment meeting 

"Tom was involved with many committees aside from his palliative work," said Aurora Flores, Quality/Performance Distinction Coordinator, PSMEMC, who was his former supervisor for more than 10 years. "And, when we needed prayers, he was the one everyone would call." 

"He was a vital part of our community. We are all very sad because he was such a large part of our organization forever," said Martin Judd, CEO and Executive Vice President, PSMEMC. "We are devastated and in shock by this sudden loss." 

"We looked to him for guidance. He always had something nice to say. He brightened your day with a smile," said Celia Gonzalez, Community Relations, Senior Wellness Coordinator, PSMEMC.

Sister Patty Fillenwarth, Director, Providence Family Services Center, explained that Father Tom arrived at Maternity BVM after she started the Center at BVM. "He was always supportive and he was a fantastic wonderful person. He gave himself to everything that he did. He never knew a stranger or ever for got you. He was wonderful." 

As described by all who knew him and worked with him, Father Tom was a vital person who was important to the operations of the hospital, its patients, staff and to the broader community. Over the years he worked with other organizations as well as the Chicago Police Department's 14th District Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) team. 

Victor Villalobos, Director Community Relations, PSMEMC, pointed out that Father Tom cared a great deal about the community and health care issues for immigrants. "He worked to offer them many services and worked with CAPS about gang issues. Both were important to him."

In talking about Father Tom's passing, Maggie Martinez of the Block Club Federation, who worked with him on many projects, said "God needed another angel." 

"His passing is a loss to the community relationship with police and the community. We mourn his loss along with his family, colleagues and friends," said Captain Marc Buslik, 14th Police District. 

While his sense of humor was visible in the twinkle in his eye, not everyone knew of his two personal favorite things…golf and skiing. "Each year he but in for time off in January," Flores explained. "He and his buddies went off on their skiing trip." 


At a Presence Cares Event, Father Tom is part of a conversation with Father Nick Desmond, St. Aloysius, and another attendee

"A big Sox fan, he loved to play golf," said Kramer. "He made arrangements with docs and the CEO for this year's golf outing. He had a smooth stroke and hit the ball straight down the fairway. One time I holed a 20 foot putt while he made a 15 footer and someone else made it in 7 feet. He said I got that shot because I was playing with him!" 

A native of Chicago he was ordained in 1966. His first assignment in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago was at St. Jerome's Church in Rogers Park as Assistant Pastor for 6 years before going to Saint Bernard's on 65th St. followed by Holy Trinity Medical Center and from 1983-86 at Our Lady of the Angels. Four years at St. Anthony's was followed by another four at Our Lady of the Mount in Cicero. He was a resident priest at St. Aloysius as be began his work at St. Elizabeth. 

Being the only boy in a family of six children, he professed that it was his sisters that drove him into the seminary. However, everyone knew that his life's choice was because he loved being a priest. 

"He was always good at keeping in touch with us," said his sister Joanne Pitulla. "But in the last few years, each week on Sundays, he sent us an email about the many things that happened during the week. 

"He lived for others and had great faith and lived joyfully." 

Tom Pelton was the son of Norbert and Josephine O'Brien Pelton. Preceded in death by his sister Virginia Carr his four surviving sisters are Joanne Pitulla, Lockport, IL; Colette McGuinness in Arizona; and Norine Matthews and Mary Anne Hannibal in Oregon. He is also survived by brother-in-law Patrick Carr as well as many nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews.

*Photo courtesy of Aurora Flores



Father Pelton

Small world... yesterday I was called by Alderman Maldonado to help out at a church on North ave and Monticello. He needed me to clear the huge snow mess off the front walks and try my best with my plow truck to make more parking area for a priest's wake. I of course helped and now I read about this man and feel even better that I did this to help folks come to the church for his send off!

It's not goodby but See you later Fr. Tom

Fr. Tom helped me have a mass for my belated husband Carlos Angel Villafane. Fr. Tom was caring warm and understanding. Through my deep state of sadness. He offered comfort through prayer. Generous with his words about my husbands activity in the Humboldt Park Community. Fr. Tom later always had a smile for me always remembering who I was. May he travel to the heavens with gods angels at his side.Fr. Tom will be missed but know many community members who died before him will be waiting for him ready to receive him and welcome him home. Thank you Fr. Tom for passing through our life here in this world. God bless you. See you later Fr.Tom.



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