FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Father Robert Matthew Monti, 90, of Fort Lauderdale, died Sunday, June 28, 2020. He was born May 13, 1930, in La Crosse, to Matthew and Angeline (Gianoli) Monti. He attended St. Charles Catholic school in Genoa and graduated in 1948, from Aquinas High School in La Crosse. In 1950, he enlisted in the Air Force, spending four years at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas. While there, he acquired 30 college credits at night school, from Trinity University and St. Mary’s University, in San Antonio and through correspondence with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was released from the Air Force three months early, to attend college at Loyola University in Chicago, Loras College in Dubuque for Philosophy training, and then St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee, for Theology. He was ordained on May 21, 1961, at Holy Cross Seminary Chapel in La Crosse, by Bishop John Patrick Treacy and was a priest for 59 years.
Fr. Bob’s first priestly assignment was at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Cadott, Wis., and St. Anthony’s Parish in Drywood, Wis. On Aug. 24, 1962, he was granted permission by Bishop Treacy to enter the Air Force Chaplaincy, which began in December of 1962, until his retirement on May 31, 1985. His tours of duty included: Minot AFB, North Dakota; Thule AB, Greenland; Selfridge AFB, Michigan; Pleiku AB, Vietnam; Tinker AFB, Oklahoma; Ankara AB, Turkey; Athens AB, Greece; Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon, Virginia; Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs; Aviano AB, Italy and McGuire AFB, New Jersey. The most memorable of the assignments were the Arlington National Cemetery, the Air Force Academy and Vietnam. While in Vietnam, he joined a barbershop group of about 30 members, that had been formed on the base, to entertain the military personnel throughout the area.
He received many awards but the most notable were the Bronze Star and the Vietnamese Medal of Honor 1st Class. The Bronze Star was awarded to him by the Base Commander at the Pleiku Air Base, for his work with all of the military troops under his care, for assisting at the local Army Hospital and working to strengthen the rapport between the Vietnamese and the Americans. He received the Vietnamese Medal of Honor 1st Class from the Vietnamese Commanding General of II Corps (which covered Central Vietnam) at his headquarters. This was in appreciation for his charitable works to help the Vietnamese in the Pleiku area, by directing a variety of welfare programs and in strengthening the rapport between the Vietnamese people and the Americans at the Air Base.
While in Athens, Greece, Fr. Bob began a Master’s Degree night school program in social work, through Ball State University of Muncie, Ind. When he was reassigned to Arlington Cemetery, he was able to complete the course by attending night school classes at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He retired from the Air Force on May 31, 1985, with the rank of Colonel.
After retiring from the Air Force, Fr. Bob was granted a sabbatical at the Institute on Spirituality at Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, Italy. On Feb. 8, 1986, he was appointed pastor at St. Mary’s in Keyesville; Sacred Heart in Lone Rock; and St. Kilian in Bear Valley, Wis. In 1992, he was granted permission from Bishop John Paul to work with the HIV ministry in Fort Lauderdale. He spent the next 28 years there. First, he worked with AIDS patients, then he worked full-time with a hospice company and the last 20 years as a full-time Chaplain at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale. He retired in January of 2018, at the age of 87.
Fr. Bob had been battling cancer since April of 2018, returning to his home town of Genoa, in February of 2019, in extremely poor health. Here, with great love and care from his family, he went into remission and regained much of his weight and strength. After pet scans revealed no active cancer, he was happy to return to his home in Florida, in October of 2019. We were so thankful to have had eight wonderful months with him. He enjoyed five months in Florida, when, in March, two other cancers were found. Then, we were hit with the coronavirus which prevented him from returning to Wisconsin. We were devastated that we would not be able to see him again, as he became too weak and couldn’t take the chance of becoming infected with the virus. He was in his home under hospice care with assistance from his friend, Panos. We were in constant contact with him, until the very end.
EVERYONE LOVED FR. BOB! We heard these words from everyone we met! He was the most loving, caring, giving, accepting, gentle, kind, humble, respectful, non-judgmental and witty man you could find. He valued and accepted every human being with LOVE, never putting himself above anyone. He was so against racism and injustice, always fighting for the underdog. He was such an important part of our families with most of the baptisms and weddings planned around when he could be home. His homilies were all about LOVE. He offered love and support and gave us strength at the time of family deaths, and then officiated at the funeral Masses, always available to us in times of need. Every year, he looked forward to the family reunion, the one time each year when his three sisters and their large families would come together. Before we ate, he would be sure to have a prayer, then thank everyone for being there, and for preparing the meal and then add a few humorous remarks, ending with, “I LOVE TO EAT!” He had a wonderful sense of humor and wit, entertaining everyone from small children through adults! He was able to relate to anyone at any level. He would always say, “Bless your little heart!” We are saying, “Bless your GREAT BIG heart!” We Love you Fr. Bob! You are a true gift from God, and you will be so missed!
Fr. Bob would like to thank all of his friends, over the years, from Wisconsin and Florida, and especially his friend, Panos Vasilakis, who has been assisting him for several years. Thanks to the personnel and volunteers from the Spiritual Care Department at Holy Cross Hospital, especially to the volunteers, organist and participants who worshipped at the chapel and gave him so much support. He would also like to give special thanks to his doctors, Dr. Hilary Bingol from Mayo Clinic-La Crosse, and Dr. David Drew, Dr. Mario Hernandez, Dr. Joshua Larned and Dr. James Garner from Holy Cross Hospital.
Survivors include his 32 nieces and nephews. Malin family: Ann Wanserski of Irma, Wis., Ellen (Wayne) Umberger of Genoa, Steve (Jan) Malin of Fond du Lac, Wis., Ruth Yarbrough of Janesville, Wis., Daniel (Dana) Malin of Genoa, Joan (Kent) Mc Cormick of Waterville, Iowa, Janice (Edward) Hammell of Caledonia, Minn., Raymond (Eileen) Malin of La Crosse, Leo (Lynn) Malin of La Crosse, Laura (Jan) Chiglo of Green Bay, Wis., and Samuel (Carol) Malin of Genoa. Trussoni family: Deborah (Norman R.) Crater of La Crosse, William (Rose) Trussoni of Stoddard, Mary (Jerry) Rethwisch of Farmington, Minn., Patricia (Frank) Tudahl of La Crosse, Robert (Monica) Trussoni of Marshfield, Wis., Jeannette (Tom) Roberts of Two Rivers, Wis., Arnold (Tama) Trussoni of Genoa, Ronald (Cindy) Trussoni of La Crosse, Dorothy (Duane) Fry of La Crosse, Diane (Don) Rauch of Woodbury, Minn., Donna (Larry) Mikshowsky of Bangor, Susanne Trussoni of Coon Valley, Kathleen (Greg) Tully of Genoa, and Carmela Trussoni of Genoa. Bente family: Chester (Jodi) Bente of La Crosse, Mariette Donovan of Oregon, Wis., Tonette (Jerry) Furlano of Stoddard, Janette (Danny) Warner of Trout Valley, Ill., Annette Chapman (Mike Hoekstra) of Arlington Heights, Ill., Matthew (Renee) Bente of Onalaska, and Lynnette (Shane) Halleman of Aurora, Ill. He is also survived by 89 great and 110 great-great-nieces and nephews; and special friend, Panos Vasilakis of Fort Lauderdale.
He was preceded in death by his parents; his sisters and brothers-in-law, Kathryn (Philip) Malin, Therese (Adolph) Trussoni, and Mary Jane (Chester) Bente; nephew, Thomas Malin; and his niece’s husbands, John Wanserski and Dave Donovan.
Recognizing that he was a sinner, he asks his family and friends to continue remembering him in their prayers, and to ask the Lord, God to forgive him and bring him soon into the promised joy.
Due to the COVID-19 restrictions currently in place, a private Mass and burial service will be held at St. Charles Catholic Church. A memorial Mass and celebration of his life will take place at a later date, when it is safe for family, friends and parishioners to congregate. In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred to St. Charles Catholic Church. The Blaschke Schneider Funeral Home, 1501 West Ave. S., La Crosse is assisting the family with arrangements.
Watch Live Stream Father Monti Mass, https://youtu.be/3Nvnw5RaCnl