ROBERT EMMETT SUMMERS
Robert Emmett Summers was born to Morris "Francis" Summers and Bridget Elizabeth Barr in 1925, the year Chrysler Corporation is founded by Walter Percy Chrysler. He grew up in Missouri with his three brothers and a sister. Robert was ordained as a Diocesan Priest in 1952 and assigned as Papal Chamberlain with title of Very Reverend Monsignor in 1961. He served his faith in the Kansas City area until his death of complications from Parkinson's on October 3rd, 2008.
As a priest, he led by example, gaining respect through his actions instead of just the things he said, said Mike Lewis, Summer’s cousin and a deacon at St. Patrick Catholic Church in the Northland. “Emmett never made friends with arrogance or power,” Lewis said. Lewis said that Summers, who was assigned to many Kansas City- and St. Joseph-area parishes in his 56 years as a priest, often was called on in difficult pastoral situations, such as a time he helped a church after a longtime priest retired and parishioners were having difficulty accepting the new leadership. Summers was a strong leader by being a “gentle shepherd,” Lewis said. “He seemed to be able to get people to come together.”
Until a few years ago, Summers returned annually to lead Memorial Day services in Shackleford, Mo., the historically Irish community where he grew up. He also served on the Shackleford cemetery board.
Though never in a “showy way,” Summers remained a spiritual leader for Shackleford long after its parish closed, his nephew Mike Summers said. Summers’ sister-in-law Rose Summers said that at one point in his career her brother-in-law was director of the diocesan Catholic councils of men, women and youth, all at the same time. She said he had a wonderful secretary, but he also went out of his way, especially for youths. Summers led fundraisers and asked his friends for help to ensure as many youngsters as possible could attend national youth group meetings.
Summers was known for his wit and loved to tease, especially his nieces and nephews. Rose Summers said her brother-in-law always seemed to have a twinkle in his eye, and Mike Summers said his uncle’s smile was called “impish.” Summers played basketball in college and maintained his passion for sports — particularly Royals baseball and Notre Dame football — his entire life. Diamond jubilee: Since 1999 Summers lived at the Little Sisters of the Poor nursing home, where six years ago he celebrated the diamond jubilee of his ordainment. Pat Benyo, the activity director at the nursing home, said she expected 300 guests for the jubilee reception, but hundreds more showed up. “He was just so well-loved that I wasn’t surprised,” Benyo said of Summers. Benyo, who was a distant cousin of Summers, said Summers remembered all but a few names — and that he gave all the credit to praying to the Holy Spirit as guests approached. Survivors: One sister-in-law, nine nieces, six nephews and many great-nieces and great-nephews.
“He was just the most decent and holy man I’ve ever — will ever know,” Mike Summers said. “You just don’t know too many people that are that giving.”