BROTHER THEODORE (DAVID) KAPES, C.S.C. (1901-1995)
P.O.W. WORLD WAR II
Brother Theodore was born in Pennsylvania and at the age of 16 convinced his family that he wanted to join the Holy Cross Brothers. He entered the Congregation in 1924 and taught one year in the States after which he was assigned to Bengal where he taught at St. Gregory High School in Dhaka (Dacca) for ten years. He was a missionary’s missionary: master of all things Bengali. In 1945 he wrote “Memories of Bengal – 1930-1940” and in the Preface he states that “The following collection of incidents, experiences, letters and articles was written in Bengal, India, and they were originally published in The Bengalese. The Diocese embraces a vast territory, including diverse races, tribes, languages and dialects.” The Table of Contents includes 51 entries with articles on everything from jungle trails, monsoon days, “Missionaries are Human,” snakes, Indian music, Bengal’s pagan noises and “The Missionary with His Camera.”
In 1940 he came back to the States for a year of study, and then while heading back to Bengal in 1941 was one of the nineteen CSCs who were interred for four years by the Japanese in Manila. Brother Rex Hennel, one of the missionaries, recalled that in December of 1941, just a month before the formal internment, “Brother Theodore was going along his merry way, making history for all of us. Teddy had obtained a movie camera before we had left on our journey, and he wanted pictures of everything. It so happened that while we were in Manila, he decided to take some pictures of the boat on which we were traveling. That would have been fine, except that the spot he chose to take the pictures was just below a large sign reading Taking pictures in this area is absolutely forbidden. Teddy got the pictures, but the police got him. How Teddy got away with keeping his camera, we do not know. He would not talk about the matter. But he was arrested and did lose the precious pictures he was taking.”
After a year of recuperation upon returning to the States, he went back to Bengal (Bangladesh) for another eight years, and then back to the States for a 34-year assignment at the Ave Maria Press. In 1990 he retired to Columba Hall where he was noted for his continuous work ethic. Not being able to work disturbed him. Gardening was his favorite pastime. He would shuffle around the house or grounds singing to himself or whistling. Although he was very hard of hearing, he always managed to know exactly what was going on. This inveterate missionary was always soliciting money for the missions, collecting stamps to be sold for mission funds, and gathering many things (some not his to give away) to send to the missions. Toward the end of his 94-years he looked very frail as he pushed a wheeled cart around the grounds picking up twigs, but he had the strength of heart to outlast a man 50 years younger.