Kateri priest dies in bike accident

Was on ride to raise funds for poor Indian children

The Rev. Plavcan

August 2, 1995

By: John E. Didziulis

The Leader-Herald

SPECULATOR -- A popular area priest who loved to make people laugh, died after an accident Tuesday morning on a bicycle trip planned as a crusade to help poor American Indian children.

The Rev. James Plavcan, O.F.M. Conv., director of the Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Shrine in Fonda died from injuries he sustained when he fell off his bicycle in Speculator on his way to the St. Regis Reservation, near the New York-Quebec border, about 15 miles east of Massena.

He was riding his bicycle in a pledge drive, to raise funds for American Indian children at Navaho and Zuni reservations in the western part of the country. He started his fund-raising trek at about noon Monday, and planned to reach his final destination on Aug. 9. He stayed in Northville Monday night.

The Rev. Kenneth Lucas of the Kateri Shrine said he was informed that the accident took place around 7:45 a.m. Tuesday.

Although there are no apparent witnesses to the accident, the Rev. James Doyle, who also works at the shrine, said it is believed Plavcan hit a crevice or deep abutment on the highway that hurled him over the bike, causing the fatal head injury. Plavcan was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.

Plavcan was taken to Littauer Hospital at about 9 a.m. and was later transferred to Ellis Hospital in Schenectady where he died at around 5:30 p.m. according to Lucas.

He was reportedly found near Camp of the Woods.

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Department, who investigated the accident, had no details about the incident this morning. Schenectady County Coroner Dr. Thomas Oram could not be reached for comment today.

Luca said the death of Plavcan was a shock to him.

"He was a gentle man who lived the Franciscan order," Lucas said. "That was his life. He considered himself to be a humble servant."

Plavcan became an assistant pastor to the Rev. Giles Van Wormer at Our Lady of Angels Church in Albany right after he graduated from the seminary in 1983. Van Wormer said Plavcan was "like a son to me."

"He was a selfless person who helped anybody who needed help," Van Wormer said.

Plavcan was a "people person" and also very spiritual. Van Wormer remembered Plavcan's sense of humor.

"Nobody smiled easier than Father Jim," he said ... He liked to tell jokes, many of which were corny, and we told him so."

Plavcan is a veteran of Covenant House in New York Cicy, where he ministered to "lost children" in the metropolitan environment.

A wake will be held at Our Lady of Angels Church, 183 Central Ave., Albany, from 4 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday. A Liturgy of Christian Burial will be conducted Friday at the church at 11 a.m. Interment will follow at Assumption Cemetery in Syracuse.

Plavcan is survived by his parents, Alice and Charles Plavcan of Syracuse; two brothers, David Plavcan of Germany and Thomas Plavcan of Pittsburgh; and two sisters, Virginia Traver of Syracuse and Mary Beth Eastman of Raleigh, N.C.