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Jesuit Father William Oulvey, with the plans for his model ship.
Jesuit’s Model-Building Hobby Inspires Tribute to His Father

February 24, 2014 — Jesuit Father William Oulvey, of the Mission and Ministry office at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Mo., said he still recalls the stories his father, William Oulvey Sr., told of serving during World War II. Those stories moved Fr. Oulvey to honor his father’s service in a unique way.

As part of the Merchant Marines, Oulvey Sr. spent the time between 1943 and 1946 on a vessel known as a “liberty ship,” delivering supplies as needed to the European theater of World War II. It was a part of history that Fr. Oulvey said he and his five siblings were introduced to through their father.

“He was very proud of his time in the service,” Fr. Oulvey said. “He sailed for three years, in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. On D-Day, he was aboard a liberty ship off of Belfast with the second wave of supplies for the invading forces. So two weeks after D-Day, he was offloading supplies onto Omaha Beach.” When Oulvey Sr. passed away in 2006, Fr. Oulvey decided to pay tribute to that service by building a detailed bass wood replica of one of the liberty ships his father served on, the SS Mark Twain.

The three-year process to build the model was a labor of love, as Fr. Oulvey said he sought to create the delicate details of the ship, bow to stern, from the lifeboats hitched to either side of the ship to the multi-ton cranes that line its decks. “Part of the reason it took me three years is because I kept staring at it and staring at the plans,” he said, laughing. “But it was therapeutic in a way. After a day of work, I would come down here and I could see something was done, I could see progress.”

Model-building has long been a hobby for the Jesuit priest, one that in the past had him building small, delicate airplanes out of super-light balsa wood and tissue paper. “I like the puzzle aspect of it,” he said. “If something is not working, I’m the kind of person who likes to take it apart and figure out how it works. Dad was the same way.”

The ship is eventually bound for its final port of call at Fr. Oulvey’s youngest brother’s house in New York State, on a mantle alongside other reminders of their father’s time in the Merchant Marines. Fr. Oulvey doesn’t know yet when that journey will take place, but he said he is aiming to give the SS Mark Twain a fitting bon voyage when it does happen.

“This thing needs to be berthed. It needs to be docked,” he said. “And someone has a small bottle of sparkling wine, so before it goes, we’ll crack it open here.” [Source: Rockhurst University]

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