We have written a book about Frankford Heroes but at the Northeast Philadelphia History Fair a few weeks ago, Dan Cashin told us about a remarkable hero, Leonard LaRue.
At the Spring General Assembly of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) in Washington in June of 2021, the Conference overwhelmingly approved the cause for sainthood of “Servant of God” Benedictine Brother Marinus LaRue.
But who was Brother Marinus? He was born Leonard Panet La Rue on January 14, 1914, in Philadelphia on one of the coldest days of the year. He was the youngest child in a family with 5 children. His parents were Paul Philippe Eugene La Rue, a Canadian Immigrant who worked at the Frankford Arsenal as a machinist and Isabelle Catherine O’Brien LaRue. Paul and Isabelle were married at St. Joachim Roman Catholic Church in the Frankford neighborhood of Philadelphia on April 29, 1904. The family lived at 5028 James Street.
Leonard’s brothers were Maurice and Paul and there were twin sisters Irma and Isabelle. A brother Hubert died at birth in 1912 and is buried in St. Joachim Cemetery.
Leonard was baptized at St. Joachim on Sunday, February 8th with Thomas Hickey and Frances O’Connor as his Godparents. We do not know for sure where he attended Elementary School but the family lived across the street from the Henry Longfellow School (now Closed) so it is most likely he attended Longfellow until moving on the Harding junior High School for 7th through 9th grade. He then entered Frankford High School and graduated in January of 1932.
He entered the Pennsylvania Nautical School in Philadelphia in May of 1932 and graduated in 1934 as a Third Officer and began his life as a mariner. That path took him to Korea in December of 1950 where as Master of the merchant cargo ship Meredith Victory, he took on board over 14,000 Koreans to be evacuated to safety.
He said that experience changed his life and in 1954 he left the sea to join the Benedictine congregation of St. Ottilien at St. Paul’s Abbey in Newton, New Jersey.
The path to sainthood in the Catholic church can be long but there is no doubt that this man was a real Frankford Hero and maybe a saint.
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