From the first references to him as a young child in 1830s family letters to newspaper articles about him when he was serving as a priest in St. Louis in the 1870s every mention has been full of warmth and caring. When I realized he had been in St. Louis, where I live and served as the first pastor at a church, where I have worshiped, I began searching for a portrait of him. The Redemptorist order he was a member of is no longer headquartered in St. Louis; the church where he presided burned recently and most of it's records have been stored. I've not been able to find a photograph or painting.
So I was beyond thrilled when going through the papers of his niece and my husband's great-grandmother to find several documents. There was a lengthy obituary, a transcription of his tombstone, and there was this.
I'll admit to a loud gasp and a tear or two. Dancing ensued. There isn't any logical reason why he, and now this photograph, mean so much to me, but I will be forever grateful that I had the chance to pour through those papers, open up an envelope and see this face.
I believe the writing on front says "your gruncle Wm. V. Meredith, C.S.S.R." The photograph was taken by A. J. Fox (205 North Fifth Street, St. Louis), perhaps in 1878 when Fr. Meredith celebrated his 25th anniversary as a priest. He's a little heavier than I expected, definitely posed and formal. But his eyes seem kind and his face gentle. He looks well, and strong, though he died in 1884 in New Orleans, only a few years after this portrait was taken.
Having found Uncle Father Willie Meredith, I intend to keep him near, to guide and encourage me, even to share a celebratory jig upon occasion! By all accounts he's a very good man to have around.