MONTPELIER, Vermont. Father William Subba, fondly known as “Father Bill” to the hundreds he ministered to over the course of his fifty-two year career, was buried here yesterday in a ceremony marked by rubber stamps, gold seals, and the tears of notary publics who traveled from far and wide to pay their respects.
“Father Bill was a game-changer to me,” says Michael “Mike” Dujardins, from Queechee, Vermont. “I thought my inkpad was dead, but he prayed over it with me and it came back to life, all moist and springy.” The incident will be included as one of three required miracles in a portfolio to be sent to the Vatican in support of calls for Subba’s elevation to sainthood. “Lotsa crappy professions have patron saints,” says Dujardins. “Tow-truck drivers, St. Rocco. Grease-trap cleaners, St. Alphonse of Albany. Us notary publics? We got nothin’.”
The office of notary public dates from the Roman Empire, when Marcus Tullius Tiro, adopted son of Cicero, began to take acknowledgements of signatures on the last wills of Christians about to be devoured by lions. “Is this your free act and deed?” he would ask after he had collected his two denari notarizaton fee. “Argh!” the martyr would respond, and Tiro would reply “I’ll take that as a ‘yes.’”
“Father Bill” did not set out to devote his life to the problems of notaries, and stumbled upon his mission almost by accident. “He was passing by the Registry of Deeds one day and he heard someone scream ‘Is anybody a notary, the one we got has a bad paper cut,’” recalls Susan Ohrflinger, of Green Mountain Office Supplies. “He put on his liturgical stole and comforted a distraught Margaret Lokey. She was bleeding profusely from her right forefinger and he didn’t know about tourniquets, so he performed the last rites. He never looked back.”
Notary publics suffer from inadequate statutory rates and low self-esteem, says Father Norman Ostrand, who counseled Father Bill from time to time when he suffered a crisis of faith. “Jesus said ‘Blessed are the poor,’” Father Ostrand said. “At $2 a pop to notarize a signature, you’re never going to get rich, that’s for damn sure.”
Subba is survived by twin sisters, Mary Elizabeth and Elizabeth Mary, of White River Junction, Vermont. In lieu of flowers, they request that donations be made to the Rubber Stamp Foundation, which operates a summer camp for children who dream of becoming notary publics.