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American Jesuit priest dies days before Taiwan ID presentation

2017/05/31 21:17:51

CNA file photo

Taipei, May 31 (CNA) Father George Martinson (丁松筠), an American Jesuit missionary and TV personality, has died at the age of 74, the Chinese Regional Bishops' Conference in Taiwan said Wednesday, one day before he was due to formally receive Taiwan citizenship.

The priest, who returned to Taiwan on May 20 from a trip abroad, was found dead Wednesday but doctors said he seemed to have died several days ago of a heart attack.

Martinson, better known as Uncle Jerry, was one of the most recognizable foreign figures in Taiwan, having hosted many educational TV programs and served as missionary in the country for nearly 50 years.

He was due to receive a Taiwan ID card on Thursday at a formal ceremony scheduled by the Taipei City government, after the National Immigration Agency (NIA) approved his application for citizenship through naturalization based on his special contributions to Taiwan.

After the Bishops' Conference confirmed Martinson's death, the Presidential Office expressed condolences on his passing and said it was grateful for his dedication to education and the welfare of disadvantaged groups in Taiwan.

Martinson was born in the United States in December, 1942 and entered the Catholic priesthood after he graduated from high school.

He came to Taiwan in 1967 as missionary and went to live in Hsinchu County, where he learned Mandarin.

He became a television producer and host, working at Kuangchi Program Service (KPS) for 40 years to teach English and present documentaries.

At the time of his death, he was vice president of KPS, a television studio in Taiwan that has been producing free educational programs since 1958.

The Taipei City government said it will hold a memorial service for Martinson on Thursday and will present his Taiwan ID posthumously.

Martinson's younger brother Barry is also a Jesuit priest in Taiwan.

(By Hsu Chih-wei, Yu Kai-hsiang and Evelyn Kao)