Reverend Royal B. Webster, S.S.
Born: May 29, 1879
Ordained: June 21, 1905
Died: June 7, 1962
St. Joseph’s College,
Mountain View, California
An old priest with a long white flowing beard, ambling slowly in his walker along the corridors adjacent to the refectory and classrooms---a vivid first impression of seminary life. The priest was Royal B. Webster, S.S., aka,
“The Floater”. Jerry Coleman,S.S., President/Rector of St. Patrick’s Seminary forwarded the following from the Sulpician Archives in Baltimore:
Royal Bertram Webster was born of Methodist parents in Stockton, California, on May 29, 1879. From 1886 to 1897, he attended public schools in Stockton. After graduating from high school, he taught school in Murphys, California, where he met a family whose influence let him into the Catholic Church. Soon after his conversion, in 1900, he entered St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, attained an A.B. in 1901 and an A.M. in 1902. After gaining an S.T.B. in 1905, he was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of San Francisco by Cardinal Gibbons on June 21, 1905. In 1905-06 he made his Solitude in Issy. On his return to the United States he taught from 1906 to 1908 at St. Charles College in Catonsville, Maryland, but was then assigned to St. Patrick’s Seminary in San Francisco; he taught Latin and English there for a brief time until ill health occasioned his retirement from the classroom. When St. Joseph’s College opened in 1924, Father Webster moved with its faculty to Mountain View. He was organist for liturgical services and raised flowers for the chapel. He died on June 7, 1962. (Adapted from the Voice, and from his “Personal Data’ sheet; and from notes supplied by Fr. John Bowen)
Many an afternoon in the fifties saw Dudley Conneely, R’64, briskly pushing “The Floater” in his walker at speeds approaching 20 mph---a frail cry echoed throughout the inner courtyard: “Stop, please Stop!!!”
Spring 2001 Newsletter (From the Sulpician Archives)
Another remembrance of Fr. Webster from the winter of 1962
I read with interest the biog piece on Fr. Royal B. Webster, S.S.
Don't know if there's any way (or even any reason) to add a short personal memory to it, but I offer the following:
My name is Paul F. Page. I was a 6th Latiner in 1961 and graduated from St. Patrick's College in 1969. Through a series of events in my high school freshman year, I suddenly found myself "house organist." ... I, like my classmates, first encountered Fr. Webster as "The Floater," seeing him ambling through the corridors with his walker, a strange sight with his flowing beard.
I was practicing the piano one day in that little room across from the registrar's office down the main corridor of St. Joseph's College when I heard someone open the door behind me, shuffle into the room, and sit down on a small couch behind me. I finished my piece and then looked around. I was surprised to see it was Fr. Webster. He sort of rasped a few words of admiration at my playing and then asked
if he could play something for me. I helped him up from the couch and he sat at the piano and played for about four or five minutes. I don't remember the piece. All I remember is Fr. Webster's long, boney fingers and long finger nails clattering over the keys. When he finished he sort of chortled with what I thought was a sense of personal satisfaction. I helped him up from the piano and he told me to keep practicing hard, shuffling off out of the room with the hint of a smile on his face. I have never forgotten that personal encounter with this mysterious man.
Several years later, I found dozens of scores of piano and organ music down in the old chant room below the chapel that had Fr. Webster's name written on them. I am afraid that I "borrowed" his complete set of Bach organ works edited by Albert Schweitzer and have enjoyed playing many of these pieces for the past 40 years. I still think of him and those few minutes I spent with him in the winter of 1962.
Paul Page, C’1969
Received in an e-mail on June 9, 2010