Msgr. Thomas J. Hilferty, 80, pastor emeritus of Queen of Peace Church in Ardsley and a Vietnam War veteran, died of a heart attack Wednesday at St. Madeleine Sophie rectory in Mount Airy. For the last five years, he had assisted with liturgies at St. Madeleine Sophie Church and had just said Mass when he became ill.

Msgr. Hilferty served as pastor of Queen of Peace Church from 1992 until becoming pastor emeritus in 1998. He then assisted the pastor at St. Agnes Church in West Chester. In recent months, he had been in poor health, said a friend, Msgr. William J. O'Donnell, but declined to move to a retirement home because he felt he was needed at St. Madeleine's.

Msgr. Hilferty grew up in Atlantic City and Upper Darby with six older brothers. He attended West Philadelphia Catholic High School for two years before entering St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood.

After his ordination in 1952, he assisted pastors in several churches in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

In 1957, he enlisted in the Navy. During his 20 years of active duty, he served as a Marine Corps chaplain in Camp Pendleton,  in California.; was chaplain aboard the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga; and served two tours of duty in Vietnam as a Marine Corps chaplain.

He retired as a Navy captain in 1977 and for the next eight years was pastor of St. Francis de Sales Church in West Philadelphia. He loved hosting Sunday night dinners at the St. Francis rectory for priests in the surrounding parishes, Msgr. O'Donnell said, and was very generous in supporting the poor.

In 1989, Msgr. Hilferty was appointed to the newly created position of regional vicar for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He and five other vicars represented the cardinal in dealing with problems in parishes.

Msgr. Hilferty is survived by nieces, nephews and cousins.

A parish Mass will be said at 7 p.m. today at St. Madeleine Sophie Church, 6440 Greene St., Philadelphia. Friends may call at 4 p.m.

A funeral Mass will be said at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Queen of Peace Church, 820 North Hills Ave., Ardsley. Friends may call from 8:45 a.m. Burial will be in Holy Cross Cemetery, Yeadon.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.