Father John Naus, Marquette University's clown priest, prince of philosophy and sender of thousands of Christmas cards in July, died Sunday night. He was 89.continue at JS
Ordained at Gesu Church in 1955, Naus spent nearly his entire life as a Jesuit at Marquette. In nearly half a century there, he held a variety of roles — starting as dean of students in 1963, then director of spiritual welfare, assistant to the president and associate professor of philosophy. He taught theory of ethics, Eastern philosophy and philosophy of humor, and was resident chaplain in Schroeder Hall for 28 years.
And as one alum recalled in Marquette's online remembrance page, "He also made one heck of a balloon animal."
Naus grew up in Milwaukee and attended Marquette University High School, class of '42. He contracted polio in 1944, two years out of high school, and the humor of clowns helped keep his spirits up, he once said. After suffering a stroke in 2004, Naus used a motorized wheelchair to get around — sometimes performing tricks with it on campus to amuse students. He commuted to campus from St. Camillus Jesuit Community in Wauwatosa.
Last year, the university gave him a retirement send-off where alumni and faculty remembered the big things he did, like his ever-growing Christmas card list — more than 4,000 sent to more than a dozen countries, with the help of a small army of volunteers — and the little things: the Hershey's Kisses he'd toss out to the congregation from the altar.