Longtime local priest dies at 81

Father Innocent served in Juneau and other Alaska cities

Posted: Thursday, August 31, 2000

Father Innocent, who served for many years in Juneau as the priest at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, died Aug. 26 in Staten Island, N.Y. He was 81.

"He was an extraordinary man," said Father John Zabinko of Sitka. "He was a very, very energetic man."

Father Innocent baptized thousands of babies and adults in Alaska, said Bishop Innocent of the Orthodox Church in Anchorage. He served in Anchorage, in Juneau in the 1980s, and in Bristol Bay and Sand Point. He was a chaplain in Kodiak in the early 1990s and a pastor in Unalaska in the late 1980s.

He was born Ted Fryntzko, Sept. 11, 1918, in Granite City, Ill., and raised in an Orthodox family. He became a priest in his 50s. He first visited Alaska in 1970 for the canonization of St. Herman, and fell in love with the state and its people, said Bishop Innocent. He changed his name when he became a monk.

He attended St. Tikhon's Monastery Seminary in South Canaan, Pa., became a monk in 1978 and was elevated to the priesthood that same year. He then fulfilled his dream to return to Alaska.

"He traveled a lot as a missionary for us. He especially went in places other priests couldn't go because of their families. Not just for weeks, but months at a time," said Bishop Innocent. "He really delighted people. He was tall, thin and wiry. He wore his long flowing black robes and his Klobuk (his monastic hat) and the kids called him 'The Wizard.' "

Bishop Innocent and others said the energetic monk loved using photocopy machines and also was nicknamed "Father Xerox."

"He loved to run off things he found about Christ and the Lord's love, and pass them out. We used to joke if an icon was created for him, it would be a Xerox machine," said Bishop Innocent.

Colleen Polson, a member of St. Nicholas Church in Juneau and wife of Father Robert Polson, the current rector, knew Father Innocent as an extremely generous man.

"If someone would give him something, a lot of the time he'd give it away," she said.

Father Innocent's health and memory had been failing in recent years, and he left Alaska in 1997 to live in Saints Cosmos and Damian Adult Home in New York.

Father Innocent will be buried today at St. Tikhon's Monastery Seminary in South Canaan, Pa. St. Nicholas Orthodox Church will serve a Panakhida after the liturgy on Sunday. Father Innocent's Forty Day service will be held at 6:15 p.m. Oct. 4 at the Juneau church.

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