A funeral Mass for St. Pius X High School fixture Father Donald T. Dalton will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 26, at Our Lady Church in Festus. Visitation will be 3-9 p.m. the previous day at the church, and also at 9 a.m. before the funeral Mass.
Father Dalton died Aug. 15. He was 82 and had been a priest for 57 years, all of which he spent at the high school in Festus. Father Dalton was ordained by Cardinal Joseph E. Ritter on April 2, 1960, at the St. Louis Cathedral. St. Pius opened the previous year.
"He is the institutional memory of St. Pius," said Father Ed Nemeth, the former president of St. Pius who was just appointed to the same post at Valle Catholic High School in Ste. Genevieve. "He was there from the second year of the school's existence ... The fact that he stayed in the community and put down such deep roots, he really had an impact on everybody in the community, whether Catholic or not, whether they sent their kids to St. Pius or not."
Born Oct. 28, 1934, in St. Louis, Father Dalton grew up in Our Lady of Sorrows Parish. After ordination, his first appointment was as an assistant pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Crystal City and as a part-time religion teacher at St. Pius X. Three years later, in 1963, he became a full-time religion teacher and also an assistant pastor at Our Lady Parish in Festus.
He maintained those roles until 1969, when he moved into the front office at St. Pius X. He served as the top administrator at the school, essentially president, for 25 years until 1994, when he became chaplain and "transitioned into a business manager kind of role," Father Nemeth said. "He ran the finances and all that; he was doing that when I arrived (in 2008)."
Father Dalton also was chaplain of the Ursuline Provincialate in Crystal City from 1970 until he officially retired in 2007. Even in retirement, though, he remained a constant presence at St. Pius. He became president emeritus in 2010 and was a fixture at school events, whether drama, music, sports, galas or other fundraisers.
"When I got there, Father Dalton was still coming in," said Father Nemeth, who also serves as pastor of Ste. Genevieve Parish. "It wasn't until about a year ago that he stopped coming in everyday."
Father Dalton served as a mentor for Father Nemeth in education. Father Nemeth was chaplain and a part-time religion teacher at the school before becoming president two years ago.
"I learned a lot from Father Dalton, not just the lay of the land when I got there, but we shared a special bond that other school administrators don't have," he said. "It's a unique world to be a priest and school administrator; there are very few people who know what that's like. For me to have someone I could go to in his office once a week, sit down and talk for an hour about everything going on and make sure I was learning the wisdom he has to give, that was very valuable to me.
"Those were very precious conversation for me to have that time with someone who literally knows everything about the school."
Father Dalton is survived by a sister, Patricia Haselhorst of Festus, and a brother, Eugene of Shrewsbury