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Habitat for Humanity house to honor Army veteran

Home a tribute to former Army chaplain Father Lee Hightower

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St. John Bosco Catholic Church (SJB) in Lakewood will soon be joining an elite group of parishes that have funded and built a Habitat for Humanity (HFH) house. In partnership with the Tacoma Pierce County HFH, the church, located at 10508 112th St. S.W., will fund $65,000 and build a house in honor of Father Lee Hightower, a former Army chaplain and the retiring pastor of SJB.

"We still need donations and volunteers," said Dan Fannin, a parishioner and committee member on the project. "The donations will be given to Habitat for Humanity in a pay-it-forward system where the next house to be built will use the funds we raise now."

Thus far, the Dimmer Family Foundation has donated a matching pledge of $5,000 and the parish has collected $18,648 to build the house later this month. The SJB Habitat Fr. Hightower House will be built in Tillicum for a Vietnamese family with four children.

"We're honoring Father Hightower out of reverence and admiration," said Dorothy Wilhelm, parishioner and committee member, and the author of No Assembly Required (July 2012). "It was his idea and he challenged us to make it happen."

Due to debilitating health issues, the former 20-year Joint Base Lewis-McChord Army chaplain and SJB priest will be retiring this month. He is currently unable to communicate or conduct an interview.

"But we aren't dedicating it to him because of his illness," said Wilhelm, "we doing it out of the utmost respect and because of his years of selfless service. He has touched many lives in the military and in our parish. When he first came here there were roughly 800 parishioners, now there are 1,500 families including military."

Father Hightower was first ordained in 1961 and was called out of military retirement by the Archdiocese to be SJB's pastor.

"He has a great sense of humor," said Fannin, "and loved telling jokes and stories."

"He's given the congregation homework at the end of each mass for ten years," added Wilhelm. "He is a great model, mentor and pastor."

HFH plans to build 30 houses on the Tillicum site. The SJB house should be completed by October and volunteers are needed for multiple on-site jobs.

"Building homes and working for Habitat for Humanity," said Mike O'Connor, HFH spokesperson and its accountant, and a former JBLM lieutenant colonel, "is the most fun I've ever had. It's the most rewarding experience and the JBLM community that volunteers here knows that feeling."

Cash or check donations are currently being accepted at SJB and should be made out to the parish. For more information or to volunteer, please visit or the blog site at Also, check out or call (253) 588-5956.

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