Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Brother Victor Besche, Airman Turned Monk, Dies

Published July 22, 2010

Brother Victor Charles Besche, 91, monk of the Cistercian (Trappist) Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, died in the monastery infirmary on Wednesday, July 7. His vocation to monastic life came after Brother Victor served with distinction in the Pacific Theater of World War II.

Brother Victor was born May 22, 1919, in Baltimore, Md., to Anthony H. Besche and Stella A. Geisenkotter-Besche. He had six siblings and the family furniture business was a fixture in south Baltimore.

Brother Victor graduated from Baltimore Polytechnic High School in 1938 and then attended Johns Hopkins University. He entered the Army on Oct. 1, 1943. All four of his brothers also were in the service. Brother Victor piloted single-engine and twin-engine fighter aircraft with the 7th Air Force in the Pacific in World War II. He achieved the rank of first lieutenant and received the Asiatic-Pacific Theatre Ribbon with two Bronze Stars for the West Mandated Islands and the Air Offensive Japan campaign. He also earned an Air Medal and one Oak Leaf Cluster. He was honorably discharged in 1945.

When he was buried in the monastery graveyard, Benny Stephenson and four other members of Conyers American Legion Post 77 color guard carried out the traditional honors of flag presentation and the playing of Taps.

Brother Victor entered the Monastery of the Holy Spirit when he was 32 years old on Feb. 14, 1951. He made his solemn monastic vows on Feb. 24, 1957. The date coincided with his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary so the Trappist community also celebrated a sung High Mass for them. They donated the chapel bells to the abbey church, which was under construction at the time.

In a newspaper article, his brother, Richard, said his brother becoming a monk “was something he never talked about so it came as a shock to all of us.”

“At Conyers you see real men, men as hard as nails, physically,” Richard Besche said. “And you’ve never seen such happiness expressed in faces. You almost wish the whole world could see. They’d be astounded at the humility and the conviction of these men.”

Brother Victor served as launderer for the community for many years.

He was cared for in the infirmary in recent years. The celebration of the Mass of Christian Burial and the burial service took place on Friday, July 9, at the monastery church.

Surviving is his 102-year-old sister, Regina Besche-McNamara. His nephew, Dr. John McNamara, represented the family at the Mass and burial service. He faithfully visited his uncle at the monastery through the years.

Father Methodius said in his homily that the song came to his mind when he heard of his brother monk’s death: “Off we go into the wild blue yonder, flying high into the sun.”

He said he often tried to extract from Brother Victor stories of flying missions in his twin-engine P38 in World War II.

“He always turned the conversation gently aside,” Father Methodius said.

While the world may not note the passing of this one-time airman, “it will always remember the great cause he was willing to lay down his life for: the protection of the United States of America and the preservation of its freedoms,” he said.

Similarly, Father Methodius said, the world may not note the passing of the monk this one-time airman became, “but I hope and pray that it will never forget the great endeavor he did give his life for—the Trappist Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Ghost.”

“May our Brother Victor—What a great name!—having flown ‘high into the Son’ rest victoriously in the peace of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” Father Methodius concluded.