Longtime GRPD, GRFD chaplain dies

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Retired Grand Rapids firefighter Julian Arizola’s relationship with Father Dennis Morrow began long before he joined the GFRD.

“Father Denny was our father, our priest that married us,” Arizola recalled.

And like his marriage, the relationship would remain strong for over 40 years.

“He’s impacted people, just being Father Den. He was a steady force,” Arizola said.

Morrow, the longtime priest at SS Peter and Paul Catholic Church on Grand Rapids’ west side, died late Saturday night surrounded by family.

He’d battled a number of health issues in recent years.

Morrow guided countless Grand Rapids police officers and firefighters through good and bad times.

Before police and fire departments encouraged officers to seek professional help for the heavy burdens brought on by the job, when the attitude was “just get over it”, Father Morrow was always there.

“Father Denny … he would just show up,” Arizola recalled of firehouse visits by the priest. “You wouldn’t even have to talk about it. Just seeing him there, showing up — you know why he was there. But he just put you at ease … just talking to you.”

The son of a firefighter, Father Den, as he was known to many, was appointed chaplain to both the police and departments in 1976, just one year after he was ordained.

His upbringing helped him relate to what uniformed services go through, day in and day out, and the impacts of dealing with people on what may be the worst day of their lives.

Just two weeks ago on the father’s 72nd birthday, police officers, firefighter, retirees and their families packed the streets near Saints Peter and Paul to wish him a happy birthday.

“Father Denny had a strong love for firefighters and police. It just goes back to his west side roots for sure,” Arizola said.

The Grand Rapids Police Department posted a video Sunday afternoon to their Facebook page honoring the chaplain.

“The GRPD is saddened to announce the passing of one of its own. Father Dennis Morrow returned to the Lord this morning after recently celebrating his 72nd birthday. The chaplain for the department since 1976, Father Morrow was a member of our family and will be sorely missed. We pay tribute to his time with us here, and hope to celebrate his life together soon. Car 910, you are cleared to 10-42 for the last time. God Speed and you will never be forgotten.”

Car 910 was his radio designation for police related calls.

On the fire department frequency, Father Morrow was known as car 17. The department thanked Marrow for his support in a Facebook post.

“With great sorrow in our hearts, we share the following: GRFD Chaplain Fr. Dennis W. Morrow has answered his last alarm, he passed early this morning. Information about services will be posted upon availability. Car 17 from all personnel: May you find peace, and rest with our Lord, thank you for your unending support! With love, Grand Rapids Fire.”

Along with his devotion to police officers and firefighters, Morrow had a love of Grand Rapids History.

He was an archivist for the Diocese of Grand Rapids

Sunday afternoon, Grand Rapids Bishop Rev. David J. Walkowiak issued a statement on the death of Father Morrow.

“It is with great sadness that I share the news of the passing of Father Dennis Morrow, pastor of SS. Peter and Paul Parish in Grand Rapids. His death is a tremendous loss for the Diocese of Grand Rapids.

He was a beloved mentor and confidant who always gave advice with a side of humor to both his parishioners and the firefighters and police officers of the City of Grand Rapids. Since 1976, Father Morrow has brought the comfort of Christ to the scenes of tragedy through his service as chaplain to the Fire and Police Departments of the City. In addition to his responsibilities as pastor and service as chaplain, Fr. Morrow also served as Archivist for the Diocese of Grand Rapids, impressing everyone with his photographic memory and quick recollection of historical events. His life embodied a call to service on behalf of Christ and his people.

Father Morrow had a strong devotion to Bishop Baraga and he prayed unceasingly to Bishop Baraga as he faced his battle with cancer. Please join me in this prayer of Bishop Baraga as we remember Father Morrow and entrust him to eternal peace:

Prayer of Bishop Baraga
Lord God, I thank you for the grace and mercy shown to me, your unworthy servant. I thank you for having brought me to this place to preach the Gospel to your needy children. May your servant give glory to you and bring salvation to them. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

“Eternal rest grant to Father Morrow, O Lord; and let light perpetual shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Please remember Father Morrow in your prayers.”

Funeral services are set for Thursday at 11 a.m. at Cathedral of Saint Andrew.

Visitation is set for Wednesday at SS Peter and Paul with times still being determined.

As with all funerals, rules set by the governor’s executive order will limit the number of people who can take part in the visitation and funeral.

A courtesy photo of Father Dennis Morrow. (right)

>>Online: The Father Morrow collection on HistoryGrandRapids.org

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