The Rev. Paul Francis Dolan, a retired priest who bought and drove a school bus so children at his Taneytown parish could get a Roman Catholic education, died of pneumonia Friday at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium. He was 85.
Born in Johnstown, Pa., he was the son of a Bethlehem Steel Corp. manager who moved the family to Sparrows Point in the early 1930s. Father Dolan attended St. Rita parochial school and was a 1937 graduate of Mount St. Joseph High School, where he was captain of the track team.
Father Dolan earned a bachelor's degree at Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg, where he played varsity football. He then entered the seminary at Mount St. Mary's, was ordained a priest in 1945 and became an assistant pastor at St. Clement Maria Hofbauer parish in Rosedale.
"He was a friendly, enthusiastic priest who liked nothing better than playing basketball with the boys or dodgeball with the girls," said Linda Webster, who first met Father Dolan at the parish more than 50 years ago and remained a friend.
Friends said Father Dolan shied away from church politics and clerical advancements and preferred the company of his parishioners, who found him a sympathetic listener.
"He often said all he wanted to be was a simple parish priest, and he meant it," Mrs. Webster said.
In 1955, Father Dolan moved to St. Mary of the Assumption on York Road in Govans and 11 years later was sent to Hagerstown to start a new church, St. Ann. Once its building was constructed, he was named pastor of St. Joseph in Taneytown in 1974. He remained there 20 years.
"He brought so much vigor and vitality to our extremely conservative parish," Mrs. Webster said. "When he first arrived here, he drove a mo-ped and was quite a sight."
The Taneytown parish had closed its small school shortly before Father Dolan's arrival, and pupils were being bused to schools in Emmitsburg. He and others suggested to the parish council that it buy a bus for $13,000 - an expenditure that would reduce the annual cost of pupil transportation.
The council told the priest it could not afford the bus, so Father Dolan bought a new bus with his own money. The priest - who was paid back within two years - took instruction along with parish volunteers to become licensed school bus drivers. On days when he didn't drive, the priest rose early to warm the engine and do the daily safety check.
"He once bought a car for someone who was going through hard times," said his niece, Anne Bullinger of Lutherville. "He lived very frugally, never dressed nicely and never turned the heat up. To save money, he'd stuff newspapers in the windows."
Father Dolan was a believer in the ecumenical movement. He was a frequent visitor to churches of other faiths and encouraged community dinners. He also set up a used-clothing ministry, with winter coats sold for less than a dollar. He used his own money to pay for the tuition of needy students. On one occasion, he paid a dental bill for one of them.
"He lived simply and was generous to others," said the Rev. Martin Feild, who succeeded Father Dolan as Taneytown pastor when he retired in 1994.
Father Dolan moved to the priests' residence in Timonium, Long Crandon, and enjoyed following Mount St. Mary's basketball teams. At his death, one of his few possessions was a sketch of his old seminary.
A Mass of Christian burial was offered yesterday at Stella Maris.
Survivors also include a nephew, another niece and a cousin.
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