Deacon Leroy Vincent “Pops” Behnke, 75, passed away peacefully on December 11, 2021 in Lubbock, Texas. He was born March 8, 1946 in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Leroy moved to Detroit, Michigan, for college, where he took Patricia Peters on a blind date in 1965. They were married August 24, 1968 and this year celebrated 53 years of “serene, sanctified, salubrious” marriage.
In 1971, Lee and Patti responded to God’s call to travel to Texas for “one year” to do missionary work in a rural school. They drove their VW bug from Detroit to Levelland, Texas, where they fell in love with the people of West Texas and put down roots. He was ordained as a Catholic deacon on February 3, 1979. They lived in West Texas for the rest of his life, raising their five children in Lubbock and Shallowater (where his winning motto “Where Texas Pride Runs Deep” sign welcomes people to the city).
He spent his final twenty years in Slaton, Texas, where he passionately served as a deacon at Saint Joseph Church and children’s music minister for Saint Joseph School until its closure in 2016.
Leroy lived intentionally to fulfill his life purpose, “To GLORIFY God and EDIFY his Church by learning, living, and teaching the Jesus Christ WAY of intentional, sacrificial, and generous agape LOVE.” He ministered to countless people, leading them to Christ through the Church, spiritual retreats, and over music, bloviating, and barbeque in his backyard which so many came to lovingly know as Loyalty, Texas.
Leroy was a warrior for life and dedicated himself to shed light on the dignity of life of the unborn and injustice of abortion. One of his favorite lifetime accomplishments was writing and publishing a booklet, The Big Lie and What to Do About It: A Response to Pro-Abortion Propaganda, which sold over 10,000 copies. He helped establish Lubbock’s crisis pregnancy center, The Nurturing Center, and emceed their annual fundraising banquet for over a decade.
Other lifetime accomplishments include aiding in the design and building of Saint John Neumann Church in Lubbock, working as a cartoonist, columnist, and editor of the West Texas Catholic/South Plains Catholic newspaper for 30 years, writing and publishing Illustrated History of the Diocese of Lubbock, working with the Children’s Advocacy Center, serving on a number of councils and boards, and being featured in the book Amazing Faith of Texas. He received numerous honors and awards in his years of service.
Deacon Leroy assisted in about 2,000 Sunday Masses and hundreds of baptisms and weddings. One memorable wedding homily introduced the key to lifelong marriage, “Lucky CHARMS” - Commitment, Holiness, Affection, Respect, Mercy, and Service, and many wedding photos feature him holding his prop - a box of Lucky Charms, which he encouraged couples to eat every year on their anniversary.
His mission statement was “Faith, Family, and Fiesta”, and his philosophy was a F.O.C.U.S. on discipleship (Fellowship, Obedience to God’s law of love, Charity, Understanding of the faith, and Spirituality in prayer). He lived it well.
While Leroy’s accolades are countless, his proudest accomplishment was creating a wonderful family in an intentional, serene, and secure household, where he instilled daily morning prayer and blessed the foreheads of his children every night with Numbers 6:24-26. He took great delight in the lives of his grandchildren, his pride and joy.
Leroy is preceded in death by his father and mother, Vincent Leroy “Honey” Behnke and Irene Szabo Behnke, sisters Judy (Mel) Podinker and Joellen “Jolly” Conrad, two unborn grandchildren Francis and Josiah, and many dear family and friends.
Leroy is survived by his beloved wife Pat, his children Adam (April) Behnke, Rachel (Larry Hermance) Behnke, John (Dejah) Behnke, Jessica (Jeff) Kelly, and Joseph (Melanie) Behnke, his grandchildren John, Mary, Vincent, Sarah, Theresa, Hannah, Martha, and Ethan Behnke, Dawsen Porter, AnnMarie, Aidan, Adeline, and Arthur Kelly, Molly, Ellie, and Thomas Behnke, and William Garland, nieces and nephews, in-laws, godchildren, and many friends who he called family.
Leroy was larger than life. He loved big, served big, and spoke big, and he leaves us all with a big blessing until we see him again in our heavenly home; “May God bless y’all, real good.”
Public Viewing & Visitation
Friday, December 17 from 4:30-6pm at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Slaton, Texas, followed by a Rosary & Wake from 6-7:30pm. There will be no viewing at Englund Funeral Home.
Resurrection Funeral Mass
Saturday, December 18 at 10am at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Lubbock, Texas. Procession to Graveside at Englewood Cemetery in Slaton to follow.
BBQ Celebration of Life
Saturday, December 18 at 3:00pm at St. Joseph Hall at 21st and Division in Slaton, Texas. Meal will be served. Please bring musical instruments if so inclined. All are welcome!
In lieu of flowers, memorials can be sent to The Nurturing Center, 3303 66th St., Lubbock, TX 79413, nurturinglife.org; or Mercy Retreat Center, P.O. Box 744, Slaton, TX 79364, mercyrc.com.
Personal correspondence to the family can be sent to Pat Behnke, ℅ St Joseph Church, 205 S. 19th St., Slaton, TX 79364.