The Rev. Robert Grumbine, 79, pastor, Fire Department, hospital chaplain


The Rev. Robert Grumbine, a former Episcopal pastor and hospital and Fire Department chaplain, died Tuesday at Franklin Square Hospital Center of complications related to leukemia. He was 79 and lived in the Gardenville section of Northeast Baltimore.

The former pastor of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Essex, he was also a volunteer city Fire Department chaplain for 25 years.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Edmondson Avenue, he was a 1940 graduate of City College and earned a degree in sociology from Western Maryland College in 1947. After receiving a master's degree from the Duke University School of Divinity in 1950, he took a special studies certificate from Virginia Theological Seminary a year later.

He served as an Episcopal deacon in Valdez, Alaska, in 1951 before his ordination to the priesthood in Anchorage the next year. In addition to his priestly duties, he was a caseworker for the Alaska Department of Social Services.

In 1966, he was named pastor of Holy Trinity in Essex and served there seven years. He then became patient representative and director of the pastoral care department at Franklin Square Hospital Center and filled in for Episcopal clergy at St. John's Church in Havre de Grace, the Chapel of the Redemption in Locust Point, All Saints' Church in Reisterstown and St. Bartholomew's in Ten Hills, among other parishes.

"He was such a dedicated guy. In his ministry he was there for everybody," said the Rev. David Remington, rector of St. John's Parish in Kingsville. "Whenever anybody needed help, Bob was present. He had a way of just charming people.

"I think he was in just about every Episcopal church in the diocese -- either as a visiting priest or filling in when a vacancy occurred. He had a fantastic love for the church," Father Remington said.

Beginning in 1968 Father Grumbine was also a Fire Department chaplain who served both the city and Baltimore County fire departments.

"He was one of our most dependable -- and most requested -- chaplains. You could always count on him to be out, no matter what the weather was. He would listen to the fire calls constantly," said Raymond O. Devilbiss Jr., a Baltimore City battalion chief and chaplain commander. "If we had a funeral, he was the first person I would contact. It wasn't unusual to see him on the scene of a one-alarm fire, a working rescue assignment or just an incident he heard about on his radio."

"I enjoy this kind of thing very much," Father Grumbine told a Sun reporter in 1984. "You are limited in what you can do, but I think it is a need that isn't being met."

A memorial service will be held at 7 p.m. April 21 at Holy Trinity Church, 1131 Mace Ave., Essex.

In 1993, he wed Edna Boone Johnson, who survives him. His 1949 marriage to Fern Ray ended in divorce.

He is survived by three sons, R. Edward Grumbine of Santa Cruz, Calif., Raymond Grumbine of Chase, and Richard Grumbine of Putney, Vt.; three daughters, Catherine MacRae of Annapolis, Ann Fox of Vista, Calif., and Carol Hall of West Chesterfield, N.H.; a stepson, Lee Johnson of Snow Hill; two stepdaughters, Deborah Reithmuller of Hebron and Lisa Guyll of Fort Wayne, Ind.; eight grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

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