Monsignor Charles A. Bartok, a native of Hungary and a key figure in the founding of a Catholic parish and two schools in Orlando, died Oct. 30 in Delaware. He was 87.
Bartok was instrumental during the mid-1950s in establishing St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church on Edgewater Drive in College Park. Soon afterward, on property next to the church, he helped build Bishop Moore Catholic High School, which today has more than 1,000 students.
"He was a very strong, confident leader who could seem a little stern on the outside," said the Rev. John Bluett, pastor at St. Stephen Catholic Church in Winter Springs, who arrived newly ordained in 1960 from Ireland to take his first posting as an assistant pastor under Bartok.
"I knew him as a wonderful pioneer," Bluett said. "Inside, he was basically a big teddy bear."
The church later was designated as the first cathedral of the Diocese of Orlando, filling that role for nearly a decade until fire destroyed the building in 1976. It was rebuilt and now serves 800 families, but the cathedral status was transferred to St. James Church in downtown Orlando.
Working with the Sisters of St. Joseph, a religious order based in St. Augustine, Bartok also helped open Morning Star School for children with special needs, near the church and high school.
John Lord, former president of Bank of America's Central Florida operations and now board chairman for the Nemours Foundation, attended Bishop Moore while Bartok was a top educator. Bartok presided at Lord's baptism and wedding.
"I was certain of the monsignor's sternness during high school but didn't get to know the teddy bear part for several years," said Lord, who visited Bartok regularly during his final years in Delaware. "He was a hard-charging, hardworking priest."
Bartok's niece, Shari Zuber of New York, said she had difficulty retracing her uncle's career because he "never boasted of his accomplishments."
Bartok is also survived by his sister, Olga M. Zuber of Delaware.
A vigil service is 5:30 p.m. today in the chapel at the Motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph in St. Augustine. The funeral Mass will be Friday at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, with Bluett as homilist.
Craig Funeral Home, St. Augustine, is handling the arrangements.
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