[This article appeared in the San Diego Union Tribune. Bishop Magness was interviewed for the article.]
Nobody was as ardent a champion of veterans as the Rev. William Mahedy Jr. An Army chaplain in Vietnam from 1970 to 1973, he knew intimately how war could haunt its survivors, and he forged a career serving them.
“I still carry something in my soul that is unresolved,” he said during a 1991 interview with the San Diego Union.
Rev. Mahedy wrote extensively on peace in the nuclear age and co-authored the program that led to the establishment of Vet Centers nationwide. He also helped found the predecessor of Veterans Village of San Diego.
Rev. Mahedy died of cancer July 20 at the VA San Diego Medical Center in La Jolla. The Clairemont resident was 75.
As a VA benefits counselor in Los Angeles in 1977, he teamed with another counselor, Shad Meshad, to design the Vietnam Veterans Outreach Program. It provided the blueprint for the storefront Vet Centers that offered counseling and readjustment services.
“Bill was called the ‘High Priest,’ and I was the ‘Street Priest,’ ” Meshad said of their odd-couple partnership when they introduced their program to officials in Washington, D.C. “Bill was fluent and elegant and looked like VA in his polyester suit. I looked horrific with this Afro and beard and my street talk.”
Rev. Mahedy worked a year at the Vet Center in Van Nuys before coming to San Diego as team leader. He left two years later to create a uniquely local vets group.
“We started a rap group (at the Vet Center), and out of that he challenged us to start the Vietnam Veterans of San Diego, now Veterans Village of San Diego,” said Jack Lyon, co-founder of VVSD. “He said, ‘Why don’t you do something purposeful with your energy and your rage?’ ”
Rev. Mahedy was a guiding force for numerous VVSD programs, including job placement, drug and alcohol recovery, getting homeless vets off the streets and, in 1988, Stand Down.
“What he gave us kindled a little flicker of hope in us when we felt hopeless,” Lyon said. “He gave us confidence, and he loved us when we really didn’t know how to do that so well.”
William Peter Mahedy Jr. was born June 30, 1936, in San Diego, the oldest of four to William Mahedy Sr. and Loretta Engler Mahedy. He attended St. Augustine High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Villanova University in 1959. In the 1960s and 1970s, he obtained three master’s degrees: in marriage, family and child counseling from Chapman University; in philosophy from Villanova; and in religious education from Augustinian College.
Ordained a Catholic priest in 1963, Rev. Mahedy left the priesthood to marry and became an Episcopal priest in 1976. In the ’80s and ’90s, he served as a priest and campus minister at UCSD and SDSU, and worked as a VVSD therapist, a VA Medical Center chaplain, and a member of the medical center’s PTSD Clinical Team.
Rev. Mahedy is survived by his wife, the former Carol Rice of Clairemont; sister Mary Shier of San Diego; brothers Thomas of Des Moines, Iowa, and John of Portland, Ore.; son Michael of Tracy; daughter Marie Lockton of San Diego; and three grandchildren.
A funeral will be held at 10 a.m. today at Good Samaritan Episcopal Church. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Rev. Mahedy’s memory to St. David’s Episcopal Church, 5050 Milton St., San Diego, CA 92110.
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