Lambert Valentine Remains Province’s Oldest Friar

Cassian Miles, OFM Friar News

RINGWOOD, N.J. — Lambert Valentine, OFM, celebrated his 97th birthday on Aug. 9 at Holy Name Friary during a festive afternoon luncheon with eight members of his family. Five friars from Butler also came for the significant occasion marking Lambert as the oldest in the Province by age.

Fellow Newark, N.J., native, Peter Sheridan, OFM, also a resident of Holy Name Friary, will turn 97 next month.

Sitting with Lambert at a special table in the community room were his brother, Raymond, and his wife, Helen, of Clark, N.J., and their two children, Mary Pizza and Barbara Ann Falco. Lambert’s sister Rose “Dolly” Montefusco, also of Clark; her son Frank and his two boys, James and Michael, traveled from Houston, Texas, for the occasion.

Bernard Creighton, OFM, drove the delegation from Butler: Claude Lenehan, OFM, Leon Ristuccia, OFM, andThomas Kelly, OFM.

When asked what was his secret to living such a long life in Holy Name Province, Lambert laughed heartily and replied, “I learned to mind my own business!”

Predeceased by his brothers Nicholas and James, “Hank” took Lambert as his religious name in the Province, because of his friendship with a Franciscan with that name from another community.

The nonagenarian’s family recalled with happy smiles Lambert’s visits to Clark over some 50 years, where he would entertain by playing the piano and singing with everyone. Frank remembers his boyhood visits to his uncle in “The Big Apple” for Yankees baseball games and the circus. Lambert was stationed at St. Francis Friary in Manhattan for nearly 60 years, where he ran the fabulously successful Franciscan Family Circle Pilgrimage Office next to the church on West 31st Street.

labertHe retired to Butler in April 2003 and became a permanent member of the community at Ringwood in the summer of 2009. Lambert jokes about his life, stating, “I’ve had it tough!” But then says, “But really, God has been very good to me, and I couldn’t be happier here.”

His mornings include exercises to keep his legs in shape. The other hours of the day seem to speed by, as he rolls his wheelchair around the corridors. “My family has been so kind,” he observed, looking down the table at his guests. “They come from Clark every three weeks or so. We always enjoy each other’s company.”

Francis Soucy, OFM, director of Holy Name Friary, added, “In my little speech on Hank to the group, I mentioned the time I went to dinner with another friar in the city. Upon entering the restaurant, we spotted Hank dressed in impressive Roman collar and rabbi sitting at a table with three female guests of about Hank’s age at the time (well into his 80s). The guests were former rockettes at Radio City, who were friends of Hank. He explained that he was rather flattered to still be attractive to famous can-can dancers. His presence as a beloved member of our community has brought multiple blessings.

“Dearly loved by the staff, whom he compliments daily for its compassionate care, he brings to our friary, as he did for 59 years to 31st, a cheerful, sparkling and grateful demeanor that instantly dispels the gloom that occasionally afflicts the disabled. A long life of this type of Franciscan service is surely worth living. We gave him a birthday gift of DVDs of Lawrence Welk’s shows, Hank’s favorite. His greatest gift is yet to come. Hank’s long life has always been worth living. He is eager to continue the journey.”

— Fr. Cassian, a former director of communications for Holy Name Province, is a frequent contributor to HNP Today.