Raeville priest’s orphan train arrival commemorated with statue in Kansas

It was a big day for Fred and Mary Ann Fangman of St. Bonaventure Parish in Raeville.

As part of a project by the National Orphan Train Complex in Concordia, Kan., they unveiled a statue Feb. 23 in Concordia dedicated to the late Father Paul Fangman, an archdiocesan priest who arrived as a young boy in Nebraska by train from New York City in 1923 to be adopted by Fred Fangman’s great uncle and aunt, Andrew and Anna Fangman of Raeville.

Father Fangman, who died in 2010 after serving parishes in towns including Primrose, Randolph, Clarks, Butte, Naper and Omaha, was among more than 200,000 orphans from New York who traveled by rail to be placed with families around the country from 1854 to the early 1930s.

The museum in Concordia includes a train depot, rail cars and other exhibits, and it began the statue project in 2015 when the town’s leadership decided it should honor the attraction by taking on the title "Orphan Train Town," said Shaley George, the museum’s curator.

As many as 50 statues could be placed around town by the end of this year, George said.

And Father Fangman is a museum favorite, in part because he visited the complex more than once, was a member of the Orphan Train Heritage Society of America and participated in orphan train reunions around the country, George said.

"He is well-remembered," she said.

Father Fangman’s statue is placed outside Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, where he also visited. Sponsored by the local Knights of Columbus council, the parish’s Altar Society and an anonymous donor, the 2-foot-tall bronze statue depicts a boy wearing a baseball cap backwards, holding a frog in one hand and a bucket in the other – a pose typical of the young Father Fangman, said Fred Fangman, administrator of the late priest’s estate.

Fred Fangman also assisted at Father Fangman’s ordination in 1949 at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha, and he remembers the priest fondly.

"He always had time to listen to somebody and help them out," Fangman said. "He was one of a kind."

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