Beloved Chaminade teacher Lorfanfant dies

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The Rev. Ernest Lorfanfant, S.M., who taught at Chaminade High School in Mineola for nearly 50 years, has died at age 82. (Photo courtesy of Chaminade High School)

The Rev. Ernest Peter Lorfanfant, who taught at his alma mater Chaminade High School in Mineola for nearly 50 years, has died. He was 82.

Lorfanfant died in the hospice unit at Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Center on Tuesday, May 19, according to Brother Stephen Balletta, the vocations minister for the Province of Meribah and a religion teacher at Chaminade. No cause of death was given.

Born in 1937, in his youth Lorfanfant attended St. Catherine of Sienna Grammar School in Saint Albans, Queens. He graduated from Chaminade in 1955 and went on to the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio, a Catholic school run by the Society of Mary, or the Marianists.

Lorfanfant took his first vows with the Marianist order in 1956, before graduating from Dayton with a bachelor’s in theology.

His first job as a teacher would be at Purcell Marian Catholic High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he taught from 1958 to 1963, and went on to pursue graduate studies in canon law at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, Italy before finishing at St. John’s University in Queens, being awarded a Master’s degree in education in 1975.

He was later ordained a priest at the Marianist international Seminary in Fribourg, Switzerland on March 30, 1968. Later that same year, he began a nearly 50-year career as a teacher at Chaminade, leading classes in language, music, mathematics, and religion.

Lorfanfant also worked as the in the school’s guidance department college placement office and led set construction for the school’s theatrical productions. Chaminade announced Lorfanfant’s retirement from full-time teaching in 2016, just two years shy of his 50th anniversary as a teacher.

Balletta, who had been a student of Lorfanfant’s during his own time at Chaminade, recalled in a phone interview that he had called his rowdier students “bandits,” and wrote in a Facebook post that

“Fr. Ernie’s affection shone on both the “good kids” and the “bad kids,” perhaps with a slight preference for the latter,” Balletta wrote.

The school’s post on his death on social media was flooded with comments from alumni, parents and former colleagues remembering the years that “Father Ernie,” as some of them called him, spent at Chaminade.

One alumnus recalled dedicating the 1983 edition of the Crimson and Gold yearbook to him, writing, “It didn’t take much of a debate. One of the most real, interesting people you will ever meet. A huge loss for all of us.”

Another cited his time working alongside Lorfanfant as a set builder and said that he pursued architecture with the priest’s encouragement. Others spoke to his role as a guidance counselor, remembering college decisions he helped them make.

Even still, dozens of other former students recalled Lorfanfant being the celebrant at their weddings or christening their children years after they graduated.

“To be sure, Fr. Ernie saw the hidden possibilities in everything and everyone he encountered,” Balletta wrote. “Many of his former students remember Fr. Ernie fondly for the hidden potential he discovered in them and the self-confidence he instilled in them.”

Lorfanfant is survived by his sister Jacqueline Klimkowski, a former science teacher at Kellenburg Memorial High School in Uniondale, also run by the Marianists. He is also survived by his nieces Christine and Margaret Klimkowski, both graduates of Kellenburg, and by nephews Benjamin and Richard Klimkowski, both Chaminade alumni.

Neither Chaminade nor the Marianist order has announced plans for a memorial or similar service as of yet.

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