The Rev. Joseph B. Graham, 74, pastor of St. Jerome's Catholic Church in Holmesburg, died of a heart attack Tuesday, Dec. 28, at Nazareth Hospital.

During his more than 20 years at St. Jerome's, Father Graham remodeled the church and added a narthex, a meeting room, and an auxiliary sacristy. He was a talented carpenter, and he and the parishioners did most of the interior work themselves.

He also crafted the large cross at Colfax and Stamford Streets in front of the church and carved smaller crosses for altar servers, his brother Msgr. James J. Graham said.

Father Graham shared his cooking expertise with his parishioners, providing items for bake sales and the parish picnic. Every December, he made batches of chicken soup for an Advent event and prepared meals with the parish school students for Aid for Friends, which provides services to shut-ins.

He loved the people of St. Jerome's, his brother said, many of whom are police officers and firefighters.

In 2007 and 2008, Father Graham said Masses for two fallen police officers who were members of his parish. Officer Chuck Cassidy died on All Saints Day, Nov. 1, 2007, hours after an armed bandit shot him in the head.

"There's a pall over the parish, a sadness," Father Graham told The Inquirer after Mass the next day for parishioners. In his sermon, he said, "It's very fitting that on this All Souls Day we ask all those wonderful men and women who have gone before us and enjoy the joys of heaven to reach out their hands and grasp Chuck by his hand and lead him on the rest of the journey from the doors of death into the light of eternity."

A little more than a year later, on Nov. 18, 2008, St. Jerome's was full for a Mass in memory of Police Sgt. Timothy Simpson. Simpson had been killed the day before when a career criminal, driving a stolen car, crashed into his police vehicle. Parishioners were "devastated," the pastor told The Inquirer. "The whole community is mourning for the family and the Police Department."

Father Graham grew up in a devout family. "Our mother went to daily Mass," Msgr. Graham said. He graduated from Northeast Catholic High School and entered St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood.

After he was ordained in 1963, he assisted pastors at parishes in Philadelphia, Havertown, and Willow Grove.

From 1975 to 1980, he was director of Institutional Procurement Services for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, purchasing office supplies and paper goods for schools, churches, and Catholic institutions.

In 1977, when Cardinal John Neumann was canonized, Father Graham oversaw the production of medals, sculptures, books, and pictures for the saint to assure their artistry and authenticity.

In 1979, he was chairman of the Archdiocese Security Committee for the visit of Pope John Paul II to Philadelphia.

Father Graham was pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church in Philadelphia for a year before being named pastor at St. Jerome's in 1990.

He enjoyed theater and helped direct musicals and dramas at Father Judge High School and Nazareth Academy, his brother said.

An excellent photographer, he took the cast photos. He was also an accomplished artist working in several media, Msgr. Graham said.

In addition to his brother, Father Graham is survived by a sister, Maryanne.

A viewing will be 8 to 10:30 a.m. with a Funeral Mass at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 4, at St. Jerome's Church, 8100 Colfax St. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery, West Conshohocken.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or