YAKIMA - Rev. Gary Lee Desharnais, a senior priest of the Catholic Diocese of Yakima, died Thursday, June 13, 2013 at Memorial Hospital in Yakima after an extended period of poor health. He was 73.
Fr. Desharnais was born Dec. 15, 1939 in Yakima to George and Florence (Brouette) Desharnais. He attended St. Joseph Elementary School and graduated in 1958 from Marquette High School, after which he attended Yakima Valley Community College (1958-1959), St. Phillip Neri College in Boston (1960-1961), and Seattle University (1962-1965).
After college, Fr. Desharnais worked in radio and as a print journalist, including a stint with the Yakima Herald-Republic. He was principal assistant to former governor John Spellman in his successful 1968 campaign as the first King County Executive.
Fr. Desharnais worked in media jobs in Seattle and Los Angeles before settling in New Mexico for 23 years, much of that time as a photographer for the Los Alamos National Laboratory. He was married, and raised three daughters.
In 1996, following retirement from Los Alamos, Fr. Desharnais entered Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corners, Wis. and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Yakima on May 26, 2000 at St. Paul Cathedral by Bishop Carlos A. Sevilla, S.J.
Fr. Desharnais served for two years as parochial vicar of Holy Family Parish in Yakima, where he successfully recovered from throat cancer. He then served as pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Grandview and Immaculate Conception Parish in Mabton until June 19, 2009, when he returned to Holy Family as parochial vicar for health reasons. He retired on July 1, 2012 following a difficult recovery from several bouts of pneumonia. He had been receiving treatment for a cancerous tumor near his right lung when he died.
In the midst of his recent health difficulties, Fr. Desharnais was able to administer the sacraments of Confirmation and First Holy Communion to his grandson Samuel Gomolski, at an April 22 Mass at Holy Family, a very special celebration for him and his family.
He is survived by his brother Wally (Carrol) Desharnais of Seattle; daughters Kati Soleil of Nashville, Tenn., Jodi Desharnais of Breckenridge, Colo., and Darci (Brian) Gomolski of Spokane, and their children Nicole, Zachary, Alexander, Samuel and Paula.
The Vigil for Fr. Desharnais is at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 20 at Holy Family. Mass of Christian Burial is at 11 a.m. Friday, June 21 at Holy Family, immediately followed by burial in the priests' plot at Calvary Cemetery, then a luncheon back at the church.
To share a memory of Fr. Desharnais visit www.lmfuneralhome.com.
Donations in Fr. Desharnais' memory may be made to the Diocese of Yakima Priest Retirement Fund or Seminarian Education Fund, 5301-A Tieton Drive, Yakima, WA 98908.