STOCKTON -- Bishop Stephen Blaire served the Stockton community for 19 years before retiring in 2018. He died early Tuesday after a battle with a prolonged illness.
He was 77.
"When I look back over these years I, first of all, think about the people," he told FOX40 in March 2018. "All the wonderful people."
Bishop Blaire helped countless families through hardship, devastation and tragedy.
"He was a great organizer, a strong leader. Bishop Blaire taught us a lot about spirituality, devotion," former priest Dean McFalls said.
Now, parishioners will pray for him.
"I have great admiration, respect and gratitude for Bishop Blaire. He was a great mentor for me," McFalls said.
Friends say, up until the very end, Bishop Blaire was full of positivity, no matter what the adversity -- including a leg amputation.
"'Don't be sorry for me, you know, now I get to go on YouTube and look at all the things I could do with one leg,'" Diocese of Stockton spokesman Joseph Dondero recalled Blaire telling him. "So that was great."
Dondero says Blaire will be remembered for his work with the immigrant community, environmental justice and the comfort he gave grieving families.
"Just having that great spirit and courage and never letting anything bad or negative ruin his life," Dondero said.
While Stockton’s Catholic community is heartbroken, they know that life for Bishop Blaire is everlasting.
Funeral services for Blaire will be held next week.