West Palm Beach, Fla. Arnold P. Eisele, a Blue Earth native who owned and operated a pet store in West Palm Beach, Fla., for more than 40 years, died early Sunday at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center Hospice facility in West Palm Beach. He was 79.
Eisele grew up on a farm in Pilot Grove township. His parents, Albert and Susan Eisele, were nationally recognized writers for Catholic periodicals and for Midwestern newspapers, including the Blue Earth Post and Faribault County Register and Fairmont Sentinel. He is survived by his brother, Albert Eisele Jr., of Falls Church, Va., who visited him in the hospice the day before he died; a sister-in-law, Rose Eisele, of Albuquerque, N.M.; and eight nieces and nephews, including Mark Eisele, of Elmore.
He is also survived by a stepson, Michael Erickson, who was a partner in his pet store, and a stepdaughter, Debra Jay, of Grosse Point Farms, Mich., three grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. Mrs. Jay is a professional interventionist, specializing in older adults, with a national practic, and co-author with her husband of several books on treating alcoholism and drug addition. Eisele's wife, Pauline Ann (nee Carlson) died in 1974.
Eisele, who opened his pet store in 1971 after moving from Long Island, N.Y., where he ran a sports promotion company, had been in hospice care since last Friday after being diagnosed with inoperable spinal and lung cancer by doctors at the JFK Medical Center. He had been in ill health for several years but continued to help his stepson run the busy pet store until last week.
Eisele requested that he be cremated. A private memorial service will be held in West Palm Beach in the near future. Contributions can be made in his honor to the Reef Environmental Education Foundation www.Reef.org, a grassroots organization that seeks to conserve marine ecosystems. Eisele was known for his sense of compassion and concern for others, which may have stemmed from the tragic circumstances surrounding his birth on Christmas Eve in 1932, the day before his two-year-old sister died of scarlet fever. Two other brothers died in infancy before he was born, and his older brother, Joseph, died in 1998.
After graduating from Blue Earth High School, where he starred in track, Eisele entered the seminary at St. John's University and Abbey at Collegeville, in 1951, to study for the Catholic priesthood. In 1952, he transferred to the seminary of his home diocese at St. Mary's College in Winona, where he received a bachelor's degree in 1954. He spent three more years in theological and pastoral studies at the St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocesan seminary in St. Paul, before deciding to leave in 1957, one year before he was to be ordained.
Although he decided he did not have a vocation for the priesthood, Eisele remained a faithful Catholic and received the last rites of the Catholic Church on Saturday, just before his death. He was a generous supporter of many charitable causes and those in need, including a Haitian relief effort headed by his stepson.
Eisele was an avid reader and collector of rare books and sports memorabilia. His extensive collection of books included several anthologies of fiction by prominent Catholic writers, including his father.
Eisele told his brother that said he once paid a friend $800 for a baseball that had been signed by all the members of the championship 1941 New York Yankees, including Joe DiMaggio and four other future members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He did so, he said, because he was a lifelong baseball fan and his friend "needed the money."
After hearing of Eisele's death, Dr. Richard Sieve, an obstetrician and gynecologist in Saratoga, Calif., who became a close friend while both were in the seminary at St. Mary's College in 1953, and had kept in touch with him through the years, expressed his condolences.
Dr. Sieve, a native of Worthington, recalled that he stopped in West Palm Beach about five years ago, and visited Eisele at his pet store. "We had a great time together but his help didn't show up that day," he said in a telephone conversation Tuesday, "and he was so busy we didn't get to visit as long as either of us wanted to."