By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — During the funeral Mass of Isaac Weir Sears on Feb. 11 at Sacred Heart Cathedral, homilist Father John Hynes noted that construction in progress on the cathedral campus provided a good example of Sears’ generosity. “The Diocesan Center being built “wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without the generous gift” of $1 million from Sears and his family.
Sears, an entrepreneur, inventor, business owner, family man and faithful Catholic, died Feb. 7 at age 87 at his Davenport home surrounded by family members. Fr. Hynes, a close friend of Sears since their high school days at St. Ambrose Academy in Davenport, was also present shortly after his buddy’s death. “It’s difficult to conjure up a ‘Weir-less’ world,” the priest said. “He was a rock for his family; he was a rock for his church; he was a rock for his business.”
Many inside the cathedral may have been thinking the same thing, especially his widow of more than 64 years, Pat; their surviving children: Lisa Ware, Stephanie Boldt, Jim Sears and Stephen Sears, and their families. Sears was a fatherly figure to Bishop Robert Gruss, who presided at the funeral Mass. Now the head of the Diocese of Rapid City, S.D., Bishop Gruss was a young pilot when he met Sears more than 30 years ago in Davenport. It was before Bishop Gruss entered the priesthood. “He meant the world to me.… I became his pilot for Sears Manufacturing. I saw a lot of him and his family over the years. He was a very special man. I’ll deeply miss him.”
Bishop Martin Amos, who leads the Diocese of Davenport, served as co-presider at the funeral Mass. He recalled arriving in Davenport 10 years ago as the new bishop. “That first Sunday that I said Mass at the cathedral, Pat and Weir were the first to welcome me. I thought to myself, ‘Now I’m at home.’”
“Weir and Pat were special people I met several years prior to becoming pastor at Sacred Heart Cathedral,” said Father Rich Adam. “That friendship only grew these past several years as I ministered to and with the family. Two things stand out for me: first, his hospitality and welcome was like no other. His home was an open door and he welcomed you as one of his own each time you stopped by. I’ll never forget how he’d answer the phone ‘Fr. Adam, my good friend!’ He’d say it every time with the sincerity and genuineness that really touched your heart.”
Second, “I was also touched at his respect and appreciation of the Eucharist. I took the holy Eucharist to Pat and Weir on a regular basis. There was always a moment of grace as Weir took and received the Eucharist. One particular time as I was passing by I stopped just to say hello. Within a few minutes he asked if I brought the Eucharist with me! I told him that I was ‘being’ Eucharist and both Pat and Weir were very happy with that!”
Background on Isaac Weir Sears
Isaac Weir Sears was baptized in the Episcopal Church but became a Roman Catholic as a young man. He graduated from St. Ambrose Academy and St. Ambrose College in Davenport with a BA in business and joined his father in the family business, Sears Manufacturing. He eventually became president and CEO of the company. He married Patricia Gavin in 1952 in Chicago. They had six children, two of whom died before full adulthood: Isaac Weir III and Barbara Weir.
Sears was involved in a leadership role in fundraising projects for the cathedral and donated generously himself. He also was a strong supporter of Catholic education at all levels and Catholic healthcare as well. He served on the St. Ambrose University Board of Trustees and on the boards of Mercy Hospital and Misericordia Health Systems. He was also active in civic organizations and served on public commissions and taskforces for the betterment of the public good.
On Nov. 21, 2001, Sears received the decree signifying his honor as a Knight of St. Gregory the Great. Pat was awarded the honor of Dame of the Order of St. Gregory the Great. The Order of St. Gregory is bestowed on Catholic men and women in recognition of their service to the church and the good example they set in their communities and country.