Earle Edward Flatt — Catholic deacon, scholar, educator, war veteran and great-grandfather — died July 30 at his home in Albany at the age of 98.
Flatt spent most of his life in Schenectady, where he raised five children with his wife, Elizabeth. He was known for his assiduous work ethic and an unwaveringly cheerful disposition, always responding to the inquiry, “How are you?” with an enthusiastic “Terrific!” Flatt had a wise aphorism for every situation and a song for every holiday (even St. Patrick’s Day). His courtesy, chivalry and impeccable table manners were of a bygone era. Flatt was quick to open his wife’s car door and would take unreasonable measures not to exit an elevator before a lady. In spite of his old-fashioned etiquette, Flatt was ahead of his time when it came to sharing household duties. He happily applied himself to chores, fastidiously vacuuming the carpet after dinner and dispatching dirty diapers with aplomb.

Born in Bradford, Pa., on May 9, 1922, Flatt moved to the Capital District at an early age with his parents, Imogene and Leslie Flatt, Sr. During World War II, Flatt volunteered for a hazardous assignment in the Pacific Theater as a U.S. Navy “frogman” in one of the newly established Underwater Demolition Teams (the precursor to the Navy SEALS). He served as executive officer of an 80-man team and was preparing for an eventual invasion of Japan when the war ended in August of 1945. He continued his service after the war, first on a patrol craft sweeper, and later as a Naval Reservist, eventually retiring with the rank of commander.

After returning from the Pacific, Flatt earned his undergraduate degree at Siena College and courted his future wife. He began his last of several attempts to propose with, “Beth, I need to tell you something,” to which she quickly replied, “Don’t even think about dumping me, because I will ditch you first!” Despite this inauspicious start, the two were married in 1949, holding their reception at the Crooked Lake Hotel in Averill Park. Last summer, Flatt and his wife — along with their five children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and a host of family and friends — returned to Crooked Lake to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary.

Flatt spent his career in the service of teaching and learning, first as a high school teacher, then as a supervisor of student teachers at SUNY Albany, where he earned his master’s degree and also served as an associate professor. In 1966, he earned a Ph.D. in education from the University of Connecticut and joined the New York State Education Department in the Division of Teacher Education and Certification. He later taught at his alma mater, Siena College, and also served as assistant superintendent of Schools in the Diocese of Albany.

Flatt was devoted to the Church, having converted to Catholicism as a young man. He was ordained as part of the Diocese of Albany’s first class of deacons in 1976. During his nearly 40-year tenure as a deacon at St. Madeleine Sophie Church in Guilderland, he became known for his engaging homilies, often aided by a brown paper bag full of props.

His casual, smiling delivery made Sunday’s scriptural message accessible to young children and staunch traditionalists alike. He served for 32 years as chaplain of Dutch Manor (formerly Silver Haven) Nursing Home in Rotterdam, where his penchant for breaking into “Amazing Grace” tended to spread among the residents. When the daughter of one ailing resident asked her mother if she’d prefer to receive spiritual care from a clergyman of her own denomination, she replied, “Nope, I want the old Catholic guy.” Besides ministering to the sick, he witnessed weddings, baptized dozens of babies (including, proudly, several of his own grandchildren), and performed at least one exorcism.

In addition to his parents, Flatt was preceded in death by his brother, Master Sergeant Leslie R. Flatt, Jr., and his sisters, Wilma Jeanne Roy and LaVonne Rilling. He is survived by wife and their children, Dean (Mary Ann) of Montclair, N.J., Marc (Amy) of Lillington, N.C., Beth Ann Chatnik of Schenectady, Neal (Malia) of Midlothian, Va., and Kevin (Tamerine) of Marietta, Ga. He also leaves behind 16 grandchildren, along with several great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and a grateful community.

A private funeral Mass was held at St. Madeleine Sophie Church, followed by interment at St. Cyril Methodius Cemetery in Rotterdam. Donations may be made in Flatt’s memory to St. Madeleine Sophie Church in Guilderland.