Protopresbyter Alexander Warnecke, 78, Rector of Saints Peter and Paul Church here and Chancellor Emeritus of the Orthodox Church in America’s Diocese of New York and New Jersey, died at 7:15 p.m. on Sunday, July 1, 2001.
Born June 2, 1923 in Wilkes-Barre, PA, the son of Alexander and Anna [Horne] Warnecke, he enlisted in the US Air Force after completing his secondary education. During his military service, he taught Russian at Camp Ritchie [presently Camp Davis], MD. He also served overseas in the Adjutant General Department and, in the late stages of World War II, he served as military interpreter in Berlin with the Intelligence Department of the Office of Military Government for Germany.
After receiving an honorable discharge in 1946, he enrolled at Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary and Columbia University, New York, NY. In addition to his studies, he was instrumental in organizing an Orthodox Christian Fellowship at Columbia and served as the campus group’s first president. In September 1948, he married the former Pauline Stepanovna Shafran of Olyphant, PA.
A 1950 graduate of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, he was ordained to the Holy Diaconate by His Eminence, Metropolitan Leonty, on July 7, 1950 and to the Holy Priesthood by His Grace, Bishop John [Shahovsoky] of Brooklyn on July 28 of the same year. After his ordination, he continued his ministry at the seminary where, among other duties, he served as assistant chaplain. He also helped to initiate the first English-language community at Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral, New York, NY.
In July 1951, Father Warnecke was assigned Rector of Saints Peter and Paul Church, Syracuse, NY, which was to be his only parish assignment. Through his leadership the parish prospered and grew, and the church was restored and redecorated by noted iconographer, Pimen Sofronov. He also served Saint Michael’s Church, Syracuse. Through his efforts, property on Lake Oneida was acquired and developed as the home of Saint Andrew’s Camp, which has offered summer programs for children and teens for four decades. He helped serve or establish other parishes in Syracuse, Cortland, and Rochester, NY.
In addition to his parish duties, Father Warnecke served on the Diocesan and Metropolitan Councils and as Group Leader for the Orthodox Church in America Pension Plan and Group Term Life Insurance Program, President of the Alumni Federation of the Orthodox Catholic Seminaries, Dean of the New York State Deanery, and bookstore manager and member of the Board of Trustees of the Orthodox Christian Education Commission, a pan-Orthodox agency under the auspices of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas. In 1961 he was appointed Chancellor of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey.
In 1961, Father Warnecke saw the need to provide Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, which had rented space in New York City for over two decades, with its own campus. He was impressed by a property in Crestwood, NY, which featured several buildings. Believing the property to be ideal, he urged seminary and Church officials to purchase it immediately, but they hesitated. Fearing a lost opportunity, he purchased the property himself, planning to turn it over to the seminary or to use it as the site of an Orthodox adult home. Subsequently, the property became—and remains—the site of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary. For many years, he served as a member of the seminary’s Financial Committee, chairman of its Building and Grounds Committee, and Corporate Secretary of the school’s Board of Trustees. In the 1970s, Father Warnecke’s dream to establish an adult home became a reality with the establishment of Saints Cosmas and Damian Adult Home, Staten Island, NY, which he continued to serve as President and executive Director.
Father Warnecke received many awards in recognition of his dedicated labors and ministry, including the jewelled cross. In 2000, he was elevated to the rank of Protopresbyter.
Father Warnecke was well known for the pastoral and material assistance he freely offered, especially to those in need. His generosity was felt by countless parishioners, seminarians, clergy, and the poor and needy. After the fall of communism in Eastern and Central Europe, he sponsored and hosted many children from abroad to attend Saint Andrew’s Camp, providing them with what was literally the experience of a lifetime.
In addition to his wife Pauline, Father Warnecke is survived by two daughters, Daria York and Argyra Lapchuk, and several grandchildren.
The Rite of the Burial of Priests will be celebrated at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 5, at Saints Peter and Paul Church, 401 Hamilton Street, Syracuse, NY, with the Divine Liturgy scheduled for 9:00 a.m. on Friday, July 6. Interment will take place at Saints Peter and Paul Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Father Alexander Warnecke Memorial Fund, c/o Saints Peter and Paul Church, 401 Hamilton Street, Syracuse, NY 13204, Attention Ms. Daria York.
May Father Warnecke’s memory be eternal!