"We're all saying how blessed (he is) to spend his first Christmas in heaven," said friend and seminary classmate Father Robert MacNamara.
Father Nolan was born in 1926 in Rochester, where his family belonged to Holy Apostles Parish. He attended Holy Apostles Grammar School before entering St. Andrew's Preparatory Seminary in Rochester.
"We entered St. Andrew's Preparatory Seminary as high-school students in 1940, each of us 14 years old. We were there six years," recalled classmate Father Frederick Bush.
St. Andrew's students had an early curfew, followed strict rules and weren't allowed to date. Classmates who entered the seminary after attending other high schools sometimes referred to Father Nolan and Father Bush as "professional religious" because they were so used to those rules, Father Bush said.
Bishop James E. Kearney ordained Father Nolan at Rochester's Sacred Heart Cathedral on June 2, 1951. The young priest was assigned to Holy Cross Parish in Rochester, where he served as assistant pastor until 1953. He then served as assistant pastor at St. Ignatius Parish in Hornell from 1953-59; Church of the Assumption in Fairport from 1959-63; St. Mary Parish in Dansville from 1963-67; and Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Brighton from 1967-71.
In 1971, Father Nolan became pastor of St. Theresa Parish in Stanley and St. Mary Parish in Rushville, which he continued to serve until 1982, when he became pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Mount Morris. He retired in 1992, and since had been helping out at St. Mark Parish in Greece by preaching and celebrating at least one Mass a month, Father Bush said.
"They liked his short, concise sermons here with his poems and funny stories," said Father Bush, who resides at St. Mark. "He used to stop and talk with the choir before Mass on Sunday to get them laughing. He was always telling jokes about things and getting people laughing."
Father Nolan was well-known for his great sense of humor, as well as for his devotion to his faith, Father Bush added.
"He always said three Hail Marys to himself after Mass for the next person who might die. He was often seen at neighboring parishes making a visit to the Blessed Sacrament and saying the rosary," said Father Bush, who was to give the eulogy at Father Nolan's funeral liturgy.
Although Father Nolan and Father MacNamara were seldom assigned to parishes near one another, they remained close friends, said Father MacNamara, who resides at St. Mary Parish in Elmira. His friend recalled that Father Nolan was a first-class athlete and had a keen interest in sports, especially basketball, and he loved taking vacations with his sisters.
"I would think the phrase, 'He was a prince of a man,' would fit him. He was loyal to his faith, loyal to his church and loyal to his friends. He was devoted to his family," Father MacNamara said.
Father Nolan is survived by his sisters, Anita and Eileen Nolan, and several nieces and nephews. He is predeceased by siblings Mercy Sister Mary Baptist, Clarence, Thelma and Gerard Nolan.
Bishop Matthew H. Clark was to preside at Father Nolan's funeral liturgy, which was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Dec. 28 at St. Mark Church in Greece. Interment was to follow at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Rochester.
Donations in Father Nolan's memory may be sent to the Independent Living for Seniors McAuley Center at the Sisters of Mercy Motherhouse, 1437 Blossom Road, Rochester, NY 14610.