Funeral services have been set for the Rev. Daniel Mallette, the one-of-a-kind, plain-spoken, pugnacious priest whose congregation rallied around him after a vicious beating at the hands of burglars who broke into his Southwest Side rectory in search of cash six years ago.
Visitation will be from 3 to 8 p.m. Friday at St. Margaret of Scotland Church, 9830 S. Vincennes., where the Rev. Mallette served as pastor for 35 years. A funeral Mass will said at 11 a.m. Saturday. Burial will be at Holy Cross Cemetery in Calumet City.
The Rev. Mallette, 85, died Monday at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park.
“He was an amazing person, an amazing friend of mine. He was like my best buddy,” said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, a longtime friend and parishioner who will give a eulogy at the funeral.
“It’s a tragedy the stories that are lost with him,” Dart said.
“We tried like you wouldn’t believe to get him to write his story,” Dart said. “We bought him a tape recorder a few years ago, and he spent an afternoon with it only to tell me later, ‘Tommy, the thing is broken,’ and I said ‘Father, there’s no tape in there!’”
Father Dan Mallette — fighter and ‘living saint’— dead at 85
Had the recording session worked, the tape might have captured the Rev. Mallette’s fear of mortal injury at the hands of his jailers after being thrown in the clink during a civil rights march in the South.
He may have told the the story about how, after being reassigned to work as a priest in New York City, he was sent back to Chicago after church hierarchy found out he was driving a taxi in order to get to know the people in his community.
“He didn’t think much of these stories, it was his personality. He thought ‘That’s why I was put on Earth. What’s the big deal?'” Dart said.
“The stories just go on and on,” Dart said. “I have one that I think speaks volumes. I was wandering around Division Nine, the super max wing of the jail, just to check in on things. One guy was complaining to me the food was not so good. Another guy was complaining about legal stuff and I was ready to leave when I heard a voice yell, ‘Sheriff, how’s Father Mallette doing? Do you think he could come by and visit? Tell him I said hello.’”
“So later I tell Father that this inmate says hello, and he says ‘Tommy, he’s a good guy’ and I said, well he’s a got little murder issue going on, but I guess.’ . . . It just goes to show that he never gave up on anybody.”
He regularly ministered to inmates, Dart said.
Mallette suffered nightmares after the 2011 beating. He forgave his attackers and expressed interest in visiting them in prison before he died, though he did not get around to it, Dart said.
“If they had asked him for money, it wouldn’t have even been a question, he was always giving,” Dart said.
The Rev. Mallette briefly clashed with church officials after he refused to step away from his role at the parish after the beating. He bluntly described his replacement as “a genius at being a pain in the ass.”
He was a boxer in his youth, which perhaps explains his informal manner and love for good-natured bouts of verbal sparring.
“I’d tell him, ‘I know exactly what you ate last night Father because it’s all over your shirt,'” Dart said. “And he’d just say, ‘Shut up, Tommy.'”
Dart pointed to the Rev. Mallete’s sense of humor by recalling a time when he and his son took on the role of impromptu altar boys during Mass.
“My son was nervous and looked at Father and said, ‘Father, I don’t know what I’m doing.’ And Father just looked at him and said, ‘That’s alright, neither do I,’ and we all laughed,” Dart said.
In October 2012, the Rev. Mallette, or “Father Dan” as his congregation called him, was honored at his last scheduled Mass at St. Margaret of Scotland Church, one of the city’s most diverse parishes.
In the ensuing years, parishioners set him up in housing not far from the church, most recently a ranch house in the Beverly neighborhood where he regularly held Mass for visitors until several weeks ago.
“Up until a month ago he was as sharp as can be. None of us had it on our radar screen that something bad was around the corner,” Dart said.
About three weeks ago he began having trouble breathing and was admitted to Little Company of Mary Hospital, Dart said.
“At one point there were 20 visitors in the intensive care unit,” Dart said.
It was unclear who would take over caring for his dog, Tuffy, the priest’s fifth Scottish Terrier that bore the name.
“His dog was pretty cranky. He’d occasionally bite people. I’d tell my kids ‘Just leave Tuffy alone. He can get grumpy, just like Father,” Dart said.
Survivors include a number of cousins, including Eileen Jaminski.