Oakland Press story says long-deceased couple attended church service last Sunday

— From the Oakland Press

The paragraph above is from an Oakland Press story about the closing of St. Dennis Church in Royal Oak, Mich.

Rev. Ventline: Citizen journalist

Here’s the problem with it: Tom and Mary Jo Hurley — the couple who “listened” to the final service last Sunday — have been dead for years.

Their son, Tim, learned of the story through a high school friend, who wrote in an email: “Timmy, I thought both your parents had passed. You better read what the Oakland Press printed.”

He did, and tells Alan Stamm that “the grief hit while trying to compose a response [to the paper] without using profanity. A flood of memories came rushing in.”

The son wrote in the Oakland Press comments section:

My parents, Tom & Mary Jo Hurley were indeed, long time members of St. Dennis Parish. My Dad built the advent wreath used for years in the sanctuary. My Mom, Mary Jo was very active at St. Dennis. We Hurley children did attend St. Dennis at one time or another. However, unless resurrected for the last service, my parents have been deceased for years.

Reporter Stamm called the author of piece — Rev. Lawrence M. Ventline, a Catholic priest — who was reluctant to discuss the error.

“What business is it of yours?” he asked. “Why are you bothering me? I already spoke to the editor.”

The priest-reporter continued: “Whoever edited it condensed and took out a lot. My editor screwed it up. ….I’m a citizen journalist. I do this for the community good.”

Stamm writes:

Ventline attended the church’s last service, he says, and after interviewing the man seated next to him asked the man to write down his name and that of his wife. That’s how the Hurleys’ names were used, as Ventline tells it. “I was sitting next to them,” according to Ventline.

Without knowing that, Tim Hurley suggested this explanation: “I was able to piece together that the guy had ‘interviewed’ or at least talked to my brother Dan.”

Oakland Press local news editor Julie Jacobson Hines says: “We’re looking into this. We will fully investigate this.”

* Citizen journalist quotes deceased couple in Oakland Press story (deadlinedetroit.com)
* Royal Oak’s beloved St. Dennis closes its doors (theoaklandpress.com)