The Rev. John P. Buchheister, United Methodist district leader

The Rev. John Paul Buchheister Sr., a retired pastor who had been a United Methodist Church district superintendent, died of cardiac failure Saturday at Oak Crest Village. He was 87 and had lived in Lutherville.

Born in Baltimore, he was the son of Harry Buchheister, a chocolate candy and taffy confectioner. He grew up on Wilkens Avenue in Violetville in Southwest Baltimore and was a 1943 graduate of Polytechnic Institute, where he was quarterback of the school's football team.

He joined the Navy and was sent to the University of North Carolina, where he took courses at its preflight school. There he played for the school's football and lacrosse teams. He also played sandlot football for the old Wilkens Athletic Association.

After the war he considered joining the family candy business but instead enrolled at the Westminster Theological Seminary in Westminster. He had earlier organized a men's Bible study class at Violetville Methodist Church.

As a student minister, he served United Methodist congregations at Level in Harford County, where he helped organize a volunteer fire company. When assigned to Perry Hall, he built a new church and helped form a recreation council so his son could play football.

A 1956 article in The Baltimore Sun noted that he led the singing at a Methodist youth meeting sponsored by the Temperance League of Maryland and Delaware.

From 1964 to 1971, he was pastor of Westminster United Methodist Church. While in Carroll County, he saw a need for housing for the elderly and began the planning for the Timber Ridge Apartments.

He was later pastor of Loch Raven United Methodist Church. He was then named a United Methodist district superintendent. He spent a year in Washington, D.C., and later supervised congregations in Southwest Baltimore and Howard County.

"He had a magnificent voice for preaching," said the Rev. Emora Brannan, a retired United Methodist pastor and friend. "He was very persuasive in the pulpit. He was much beloved."

Mr. Brannan said that Mr. Buchheister was part of the generation of clergy who served in World War II and made a decision to enter the seminary after their military service.

"He made the commitment to go into full-time Christian service," Mr. Brannan said. "He had deep Baltimore roots and was a great family man. As a member of the clergy, he had friendships all over the conference."

He recalled that Mr. Buchheister never forgot a congregant and was a "fast and caring friend to many of his generation."

He also said that he was a gifted singer and was knowledgeable about the Methodist hymnal.

"Christmas was his great festival," Mr. Brannan said. "He loved every Christmas carol in the hymnal and sang them throughout the season."

Mr. Buchheister was a supporter of Sunday blue laws and backed public officials who enforced them.

"The vast majority of the public wish that the traditional holiday, Sunday, be kept free for rest and recreation (re-creation)," he wrote in a 1978 letter to The Sun. "It is a day set apart and reserved for families and friends to fellowship together."

From 1984 to 1991, he served as pastor of Grace United Methodist Church at Northern Parkway and Charles Street. There he developed a ministry to people with HIV.

He then retired. He joined Towson United Methodist Church and sang in its choir.

Mr. Buchheister served on the board of Baltimore Goodwill for 25 years. He also served on the Billy Graham Crusade Committee and represented the United Methodist Church when Pope John Paul II visited Washington.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Towson United Methodist Church, 501 Hampton Lane.

Survivors include his wife of 61 years, the former Mary Pierrott; a son, John Paul Buchheister Jr. of Hampstead; three daughters, Mary Claire Holmes of Denton, Robin Paula Schaan of Sembach, Germany, and Annette Blair Young of Edgemere; a brother, Harry Edward Buchheister of Catonsville; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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