A priest with a flair for design

In early 1937, the Catskill Mountain News gave us a glimpse of one man’s efforts to brighten up two local churches and a cemetery.
“The interior of the church of the Sacred Heart at Fleischmanns (now a private home) is being repainted and made ready for the summer. The work is proceeding under the direction of Rev. Edward Gaffney of Arkville. It gives his parishioners here a great thrill to see the learned priest at the work of directing the decoration. At the same time Rev. Gaffney is having the rectory at Arkville and the Catholic church at Arkville decorated. (At that time the church, also named Sacred Heart, was located within what is known as the Maple House, now apartments).”

Interior of Sacred Heart Church when it was in the Maple House, Arkville. The current church in Margaretville replaced it in 1956.

In the same issue, an article on activities at the Margaretville Civilian Conservation Corps camp reported that Father Gaffney had started a choir among the young men there.
Earlier in the year, Rev. Gaffney had started “the work of remodeling the grounds at the Catholic cemetery at the edge of the village.” (Also known as the Catholic or Irish Cemetery, this burial ground is across the road from the larger Clovesville Cemetery.)
The report maintained that “The cemetery has been neglected for a number of years and was an eye sore to the community. The stone wall along the road will be removed and an ornamental fence will be erected. John Blish who has been the sexton of the Clovesville cemetery for a number of years, has been engaged. Rev. Gaffney hopes to have the village sign on the church property removed.”
For the record, the Irish Cemetery remains in sad shape 83 years later.
The Fleischmanns correspondent was an optimistic sort. “Father Gaffney’s parish extends from the county line at Highmount to Downsville. It will be the most prosperous parish in this county when the New York city dam is built.”
Father Gaffney would not see his parish through that era. He died suddenly of a ‘hemorrhage’ on April 2, 1938 at the age of 44. An honor guard from the local American Legion post stood guard at his wake in the Arkville rectory. Father Gaffney had been gassed while serving as a chaplain in France during World War I. This reportedly caused the poor health that led to his early death. He was laid to rest in Catskill.