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Longtime Dunwoody police chaplain remembered for ‘huge heart’

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Rev. Raymond Francis Egan

The Rev. Raymond Francis Egan, 86, of Dunwoody, died Nov. 6. He had recently celebrated 30 years as a deacon.

DUNWOODY, Ga. — An excerpt from Ecclesiastes 3:4 in the Bible reads, “There’s a time to laugh, a time to dance and a time to die.”

“And I’m OK with that,” the Rev. Raymond Francis Egan used to say. “I really am. I have had such a full and wonderful life. God bless each one of you.”

Egan, 86, of Dunwoody, died Nov. 6. A native of Hartford, Connecticut, he was affectionately known as “Deacon Ray.” He served 11 years in the National Guard, and in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, he served 20 years as a police officer and firefighter. Before his death, he celebrated 30 years as a deacon.

Reverend Mr. Raymond F. Egan

In 1977, Egan and his wife Betty-Lee became one of the founding families of All Saints Catholic Church in Dunwoody. The church was established as a mission of St. Jude the Apostle Church in Sandy Springs, where Egan ultimately spent the last six years.

According to All Saints Catholic Church, the founders of the church rallied their resources, followed their Pastor Rev. Joseph Beltran’s vision and pitched in to build the current facilities. In less than two years, they were able to celebrate mass for the first time on Mount Vernon Road, with more than 300 families registered.

“When the construction for All Saints Catholic Church was completed in 1979,” it states, “the Dunwoody area was still primarily farms and rural areas without the subdivision growth of the last 40 years. In fact, … the population of Dunwoody was 18,000.”

After helping establish the church, Egan continued to serve the community. He was ordained in June 1991. Then in 2010, the Dunwoody Police Department hosted a meeting of local ministries, priests and rabbis to see if there was interest in starting a police chaplain program.

The group thought the idea had merit, and Sgt. Mike Carlson was tasked with managing the Dunwoody Police Chaplain program. Carlson spent the remainder of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 organizing, designing and advertising the program. Egan was one of five chaplains who volunteered to get involved.

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As a chaplain, Egan worked with department personnel by making themselves immediately available to assist in times of loss, confusion, depression or grief to people in crises. This service continues to not only be provided to the community but also all department employees and their families.

In a Facebook post Nov. 9, Dunwoody police said Egan was someone who loved helping others and had a personality larger than life. He was known as “Deke” around the department.

“He was a close friend to many of our staff and was always eager and present for duty calls as well as our celebrations and milestones,” the department wrote. “Thank you, sir, for your service and your huge, kind heart. You will forever be a loving legacy of our Dunwoody Blue Family. We’ll take it from here, sir.”

Dunwoody Councilman John Heneghan said although he didn’t know Egan personally, he knew he was passionate about serving those in need, especially police officers.

“Such a great guy and really relished serving as a DPD Police Chaplain,” Heneghan said.

Egan also served as archdiocesan liaison to the Korean Church of Atlanta, where he traveled to Korea to further develop the archdiocese of Atlanta’s relationship with the dioceses in Korea. Later, Egan served as the director for the Office of Catholic Cemeteries in the archdiocese, which included overseeing the restoration of historic rural Catholic cemeteries.

Egan spent a lot of time in the airport ministry at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The Interfaith Chapel, made possible by Atlanta religious leaders, serves the tens of thousands of airport workers as well as providing the millions who fly through Atlanta with a quiet space to reflect.

It is funded by the nonprofit Interfaith Airport Chaplaincy. In a 2012 article in the Georgia Bulletin, Egan called it the largest unofficial parish in the archdiocese.

Dunwoody Homeowners Association President Bob Fiscella described Egan as “exceedingly community involved.”

“It didn’t matter your religion,” Fiscella said. “He was always there to lend a helping hand. At his funeral, which was attended by all three bishops from the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Archbishop Gregory John Hartmayer said it best. He said, ‘Ray could be a little crusty.’ And Ray was a little crusty, but that only meant that he cared.”

Fiscella said the two met at All Saints Catholic Church in 1993 when he got married and Egan offered some guidance to him and his wife. In recent years, they would get together about once a month to eat lunch. Fiscella said one of his favorite restaurants was Vintage Pizzeria on Chamblee Dunwoody Road.

“Even though it was typically just Ray and me, I knew before the end of the lunch we would be joined by someone that just happened to be there who Ray knew or be visited by at least a half-dozen folks who just wanted to say hi to Ray,” Fiscella said.

And, he said, Egan “loved to hold court.”

“A favorite venue of his for doing this was the lunch area at Costco over a hot dog and a Coke,” Fiscella said. “And it didn’t take long before he had an audience.”

Fiscella said an estimated 600 people attended Egan’s funeral Nov. 12 at St. Jude the Apostle Catholic Church. He was laid to rest at Arlington Memorial Park in Sandy Springs.

Reach Chamian Cruz at 770-847-8079. Follow her on Twitter @xchamian.

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