The Rev. George Deimel, a Redemptorist priest who helped establish a Southeast Baltimore parish during four decades of work in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, died of complications from a stroke Sunday at his order's residence in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. He was 91.
Born in Baltimore and raised on Caroline Street, he attended St. James the Less Parochial School and entered the Roman Catholic seminary in seventh grade. He made his first profession of vows as a Redemptorist in 1932 and was ordained June 20, 1937.
As a young priest, he was sent to Brazil and rode horseback to remote villages, where he preached for 17 years.
"He gave the impression of being stern, but he was truly a good man," said the Rev. Lawrence E. Lover, also with the Redemptorist order. "He was a diamond in the rough. His parishioners appreciated his hard work, and he displayed a leadership that made him a popular figure wherever he was assigned. He was not afraid of hard work."
Father Deimel returned to Baltimore in 1956 and served for a year at his home parish, St. James, before being named associate pastor at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Highlandtown.
He then was assigned to the new Our Lady of Fatima parish in the Bayview section, serving as an assistant pastor from 1958 to 1967.
Father Lover said Catholic families were settling in newer houses off Eastern Avenue, and the parish went into debt to build the church and its elementary school.
To save money, Father Deimel would cut the grass, do the landscaping and climb ladders to paint -- a work ethic that endeared him to parishioners. He also worked out a pledge system to quickly pay off the church, school, convent, rectory and auditorium mortgages.
"He was as healthy as a horse, very affable, a man you could kid with a lot, a good attitude, and a very hard worker -- physical work, too," said the Rev. Bernard Baumgartner, a Redemptorist in Annapolis.
In addition to his parish duties, Father Deimel served as a chaplain at the Fort Howard veterans hospital.
He had a few assignments outside Baltimore -- from 1967 to 1970 in the Bronx, N.Y., and for six weeks at St. Mary's Church in Annapolis. He left that posting because of a vacancy at the church he had helped to establish, returning to Our Lady of Fatima until 1979.
His last assignment was at St. Wenceslaus Church, Ashland Avenue and Collington Street, from 1984 until he retired in 1997 after losing a foot to an infection.
The Rev. Michael Sergi, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima, recalled asking a physician to break the news to the aging priest that the foot had to be amputated.
"He was great with it," Father Sergi said. "He looked down and said, 'Well, goodbye, foot.' He was very much resigned to it."
Father Sergi described Father Deimel as "a true Baltimorean" who rarely missed a Colts or Orioles broadcast, and was a regular at Memorial Stadium.
"He also was true to his German roots and insisted that no holiday feast was complete without sauerkraut," Father Sergi said. "He was a terrific priest with the people. Even in his 80s he would hear confessions and celebrate Mass. The people liked him a great deal."
Father Deimel wanted to live and die in Baltimore, but in 1997 he accepted a transfer to the residence in Saratoga Springs.
A wake service will be held at 7:30 tonight at Our Lady of Fatima, 6400 E. Pratt St., with a requiem Mass tomorrow at 10 a.m.
Father Deimel is survived by a sister-in-law, Mary Reeves of Timonium, and a niece, Kitty Deimel of Baltimore.