MONSIGNOR John White has died after a battle with cancer he fought for the most part of his retirement from the priesthood.
He retired in April last year and lived in his former hometown of Yarrawonga, where he was also ordained as a priest in 1962.
The 76-year-old was born at Jerilderie, but grew up in Yarrawonga after his father, a motor mechanic, was seconded to the Mulwala munitions factory during World War II.
He died at Yarrawonga hospital on Monday.
One of his last major public roles as a priest was the funeral and burial in Wangaratta early last year of Australian bushranger Ned Kelly — 132 years after his death.
The service was conducted at St Patrick’s Church with Monsignor White brushing off criticism of his role in the service.
Yarrawonga parish priest Steve Bohan said Monsignor White had left a lasting impression with the Catholic Church.
“He brought a real earthiness to his role as a priest,” Father Bohan said.
“A lot of that no doubt came down to the time he spent overseas as a chaplain with the air force.
“He could relate to people on so many levels.”
He was ordained on July 21, 1962.
His first posting was St Kilian’s church, Bendigo, and four years later Bishop Bernard Stewart invited him to be a chaplain in the air force.
He was made an MBE in 1970 for services in Vietnam.
Monsignor White also spent time in Malaysia and at RAAF bases including Laverton, Wagga, Richmond, Darwin and Glenbrook.
He became a monsignor in 1984 and his final eight years with the air force were in Canberra before returning to Sandhurst Diocese in 1995.
Three years later, he moved to Wangaratta as parish priest of St Patrick’s, where he spent the 14 years prior to his retirement.
Monsignor White was the youngest of four children.
Father Bohan said Monisgnor White would be buried at Yarrawonga.