Father James Spata Memorial Page

For Father Jim

From the very moment I walked into Caroline, you were there to love me, and be proud of me and tell me how special I was. You looked at me like your equal, and your friend and you made me feel like I mattered to you so much. I hold dear to my heart the two pageants I was in with you. Your encouragement and your support and love have taken me so far, and I wouldn’t be where I am today if it hadn’t of been for you. I loved coming to the CYC meetings because I knew you would be there, and you would tell us a story or just make us laugh, it put such a wonderful end to my day always. I would rush the day just so I could come there and see you because I just loved to listen to you talk, I always learned so much from you whether it was in your eloquent sermons or in our quiet discussions in the basement of the Parish building. I remember your huge hugs and your beaming smile from ear to ear. You understood me, and you had so much faith in me through everything I did at Caroline. You were there for me to talk to, you always had the time. You always put us before yourself, and you are truly the most decent person I have ever been privileged to know. Thank you for being there always to love me, you have had such an impact on my life. I miss you so much, but I honestly can’t think of a person who will get along with God better than you will. Thank you for everything you have done for me and for Caroline. Whenever I look at the sky I will picture your sweet smiling face looking down on us, and you will forever be in my heart. One of the best things God has ever done was putting you on this earth.

Love always,
Kristen Gobetz

"What we do for ourselves dies with us.
What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal"
~Albert Pine~ This quote must have been written with Fr. Jim in mind. This is exactly how Fr. Jim lived and his contributions to the community and beyond are countless. Fr. Jim has touched so many lives with his kind heart and his affectionate spirit. He has a special place in my heart and I will never forget all the fun memories that I have of him.

As active members of Caroline Church, my family and I attended numerous church functions. We participated in every Christmas pageant, all the games day activities and attended countless Easter Egg Hunts. One year, Fr. Jim was making balloons after the hunt for all the kids. My sister and I waited patiently for our turn, but there were too many other kids trying to get a special balloon from Fr. Jim. We had to leave empty handed and were very upset.

After the Easter Service the next day, as we were leaving the church and everyone was greeting Fr. Jim and Canon Wancura, my mom informed Fr. Jim that we were very upset because we did not get a special balloon from him at the Easter Egg hunt. Fr. Jim was very sorry and with his apology, he lifted up his robe, reached into his pocket, and pulled out two balloons. With that, he began to blow them up and then twist them and gave us each a dog balloon. Fr. Jim did not care that there was a line of people behind us waiting to say hello and get on with their Easter. He made us so happy and we will never forget that Easter Sunday.This is just one example of the way that Fr. Jim touched the lives of the young people at Caroline Church. His carefree personality made all the Church School children love to come to church. Fr. Jim will never be forgotten. His contributions to our church and to the community will live on forever.

~Kristen Bence~


Bev Tyler wrote this unpublished piece when Father Jim Spata was leaving as Assistant at Caroline Church after more than 20 years."We are encouraged to build on our past, not to worship it."
When The Reverend James Paul Spata said these words as part of his sermon this past Sunday, his last week as Assistant at Caroline Church of Brookhaven, I realized that change, as inevitable as it is, can either cause us to lose focus on where we are going, or it can revitalize us and provide us with a warm reflective feeling of accomplishment and growth. This feeling of positive anticipation is one of the strengths that Father Jim has nurtured within us in his 20 years of ministry at Caroline Church. Father Jim has aided us in establishing the groundwork, not so much to celebrate what has happened at Caroline Church over the past 20 years, but to understand how we can build on our faith as we search for a new Rector and Assistant over the next year.

It takes a special person to take us beyond the basic understanding, needs, and interests that develop and grow in each of us as members of our congregation. Father Jim accomplished that in his ministry at Caroline. Father Jim challenged us to learn and understand more about our faith, and to apply this understanding to our family within the Church, and to the community outside the Church as well.

Father Jim noted that he often walks around the Church and in the graveyard as well to renew old acquaintances and to stop and reflect on the people, now passed on, who were members of his Caroline Church family.

After Father Jim's sermon on Sunday I reflected on his positive influence on me, on our Church, and on the Three Village community where he continues to reside and where he has been and will continue to be an active participant in bringing community together.


undated YPF campout

A recent shot of Fr. Jim taken at Eastertide on the steps of All Souls Church in Stony Brook, his last assignment. (Courtesy the All Souls Church web site)
Jim means so much to so many people. He means so much to me. In 1992, I found out that I had cancer. To say the least I was depressed and afraid. At the time my children were 13 and 11 and there was the distinct possibility that I would not see either of them graduate from high school. It was truly a low point in my life. Jim comforted me, pointing out that there are times in everyone’s life when they can’t make it on their own. Someone has to carry them. Jim reminded me that if we look back at our footprints in the sands of life, most of the time we walk with God and there are two sets of footprints. However, some times there is only one set of footprints. God will never abandon you; Jesus will carry you through those points in your life where you really need him. Jim taught me that all you have to do is ask. Prayer does count. I went to Johns Hopkins, to the best surgeon in the country. Whatever skills he, any physician or I has, we are nothing without God. Jim and others in the Caroline family prayed for me. It has been 11 years, and I am cancer free. Like so many others who Jim prayed for, I am the better for knowing Jim. Jim and Jesus helped carry me though that difficult time. I am sure that God will continue to use Jim to help carry those who need help walking though the sands of life, just as he did when he helped me. --Ray Dattwyler

Photos taken at a Foyer dinner in 1998

Photos taken at a Foyer dinner in 1998
From the first day I came to Caroline Church, Fr. Jim was a part of my life. I knew him as Mr. Spata, my friend's father and Jim, my friend. As part of the youth of Caroline Church, he took us on retreats, deepened my faith through TEC, and even made a fool of me - a fool for Christ. The last time I was in white face with him, we were doing a clown Eucharist at the cathedral. We laughed when scores of helium balloons were released at the end of the service and stuck in the rafters. We laughed again when we heard that there was a wedding there the next day and the balloons began to fall.

After I went away to college, I always got a smile and a hug from him when I came home for a visit. I have missed seeing him there the past years and I will miss him all the more now. His love for the youth of the church, and for everyone was evident in all he did. My life was affected positively for having known him and my spirit encouraged by him.   --Jennifer Tyler DeSoto


The Clown Troupe, featuring Fr. Jim, Dawn Spata, and Annmarie Guarisco, entertain the Church School students on their closing day in 1995

St. Patrick's Day Party, 1991

I have so many memories of Father Jim, that I can’t pick just one. I can’t remember belonging to Caroline Church and him not being there. I remember when he went to school and became a deacon, and then a priest. We were so proud of him! His love for his church was apparent, as was his love for the children. Father Jim taught me that ministry is not all serious and we can indeed be “Fools for Christ”. We had many workshops of the clown ministry and visiting the nursing homes was wonderful. We were taught how to put on the clown makeup and (to my horror) –No talking once it was on! We learned how to mime and make balloon animals, and to juggle (no I never got the hang of it) this was one of the most vivid memories I have of Father Jim. With his striped clown shirt, bandana, full clown makeup and a huge smile. I can’t hear “Send in the clowns” with out thinking of our time as a clown ministry. He was a man that always had a smile and a “Hello Susan” for me, and took the time to ask how you were doing. He will be greatly missed. -- Susan Camenzuli
Jim Spata had a voice that I will always remember, a voice which was a study in contrasts. His voice could boom in enthusiasm and laughter, hearty and from the belly, a voice full of the joy of life. At other times, as in the middle of a sermon, Jim's voice could drop to a mere whisper, commanding as much attention as if he had shouted from the rooftops. When he spoke so softly from the pulpit, he held us in the palm of his hand. His voice could joke, cajole, snicker, comfort, praise, soothe, explain, teach, share, elate, sing, echo pride or pleasure, show caring for all kinds of people and, of course, pray. It is a voice I shall miss dearly, the voice of our friend, the voice of Father Jim. -- Ginny Sheridan
While many children fear church and the "man in the robe," that was not the case with Fr. Jim. One of his many strengths was working with our children . . .

and then thanking them!


Jim and Chris in some undated photos, possibly the 1998 Epiphany Ball
Father Jim and family at the dedication of Father Jim's Garden in July of 2002.
[Fr. Jim] was the finest priest it was my privilege to know. It's difficult to believe he's no longer with us. May all the ministries he was so much a part of continue in strength, remembering always this kind, hardworking and truly Christ's servant as years go by.--Joan (Mrs. James) Richter
I have known Fr. Jim most of my adult life. I came to Caroline just as he was going through his ordination process. I was a newly married, young mother, very unsure of my faith, but his warmth and his openness, and his obvious love of the Lord made me feel at ease and welcomed into our Parish. He encouraged me to “let my little light shine,” to not hide it under a bushel, and to share my gifts with others.I have worked with Jim since I met him; in Church School, in Vacation Bible School, in the youth groups, in the Parish Office. He was a constant presence in my life, in my children’s lives, never too busy to talk, to listen, to encourage, to counsel. He was my priest, my advisor, my counselor, my mentor, my boss, my friend. Jim loved C. S. Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles, and taught them and read them with his youth groups. He would refer to them in sermons, and I remember especially a funeral for a young child in our Parish. Jim was the celebrant, and quoted extensively from The Last Battle in his homily.At Fr. Jim’s funeral, Fr. John Morrison said to me, “Read the last page of The Last Battle..I’d like to read to you this portion. Three children, Peter, Edmund and Lucy return to Narnia, the imaginary world they have traveled back and forth to in the series. They meet Aslan, the Lion-King of the land of Narnia. Aslan says,
“You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be.”
Lucy said, “We’re so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often.”
“No fear of that,” said Aslan. “Have you not guessed?”
Their hearts leaped and wild hope rose within them.
“There was a real railway accident,” said Aslan softly. “Your father and mother and all of you are – as you used to call it in the Shadow-Lands – dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”
And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion: but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
Fr. Jim has begun Chapter One of his Great Story. He has a huge grin on his face.

De Colores!

Wylie Louison


How wonderful to visit the website of a place that is so much a part of my childhood, and to read the lovely things written about Jim by people I knew growing up. My family was saddened to hear of his death and so I wanted to share a memory I had. "The 2 most vivid memories I have of Mr. Spata both involve color. I remember he had some rainbow striped accesories-not sure if it was suspenders, belt, or part of his sunday robe gear, and I thought, 'Anyone who wears those must be a lot of fun.'

Then one time when I was very young, he was doing something with the kids and handed out these warm fuzzies. They were little balls of colorful yarn or something (it was a long time ago) but they were tangible warm fuzzies! What a fabulous idea!

I hope I have these details right, but if not, it was definitely the bright, colorful, and fun personality that made Jim so wonderful. When I was a child I thought that Jim's only job was at church, but later I found out he was a teacher too. Having taught for a few years and now working at a school, I can really see how his personality and love for people would have made him a wonderful teacher."

-Jenny (Hanchett) Robinson


My name is Michael Graf, and I am a graduate of the class of 1983 Ward Melville High School, and I just read about Fr Spata passing away. I was a good friend of Dawn Spata, and my home life back in 1983 was in shambles, and I remember Fr. Jim was truly a good friend, and he was a great help to me.

I was a part of the TEC 6 trip in Feb. 1983 with the Caroline Church and it was Fr. Jim who talked me into going on the trip. At the time I was a practicing catholic and Fr. Jim welcomed me as if I was a part of the Caroline Church. I am truly saddened by the news of his passing, but I know he now is with our Lord and is at peace. Please be assured the Fr. Jim is in my prayers and my thoughts are with his family whom I knew well.

I know Fr.Jim would laugh today if he knew that I am now a member of the Episcopal church here in Londonderry, NH My wife and Amy and I are now attending St. Peters in Londonderry, NH. We are expecting our first child in Mar 2004 and it is a girl, and I know if Fr.Jim where here today he would be so happy and give me one of his big bear hugs, but I know he is watching down from heaven above knowing how well my life has changed for the best and heading in the right direction.

If you can I hope you would consider putting this in Fr. Jim's memorial page, knowing that he helped me threw a very difficult time in my life. Fr Jim always told me to "put your troubles in God's hands and he will always be at your side". God bless Fr. Jim and may he rest in peace.

Michael J. Graf
Londonderry, NH

Father Jim Comes Home to Caroline

Following the wake, Father Jim is brought to Caroline Church on Sunday evening, May 4, where a vigil is kept overnight . . .

The May 5 funeral service at The Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City . . .

. . . was celebrated by Bishop Rodney R. Michel and nearly filled the Cathedral. Pictured is the Caroline Church Choir.
After the service, Fr. Jim returned to Caroline Church, his final resting place.