The Rev. Leon Klemens Warczynski, a former longtime pastor of Sacred Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church in Graceland Park who enjoyed collecting clocks, died Sunday of Parkinson's disease at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium. He was 91.
Father Warczynski, the son of a streetcar motorman, was born in Baltimore and raised in Fells Point, where his mother owned a bar at Fleet and Ann streets.
"His mother wanted him to become a priest, and when she found out that he wanted to become a Franciscan, she told him no, he had to become a diocesan priest," said his niece, Leona Andryszak, who lives in Baltimore's Beverly Hills neighborhood.
"And my uncle always did what his mother told him to do," she said with a laugh.
After attending Loyola High School for a year, he transferred to the old St. Charles College Seminary in Catonsville, where he completed high school and began his college education.
He later attended seminary at St. Mary's on Paca Street and transferred to St. Mary's Seminary and University in Roland Park, where he completed his theological studies for the priesthood.
After being ordained in 1942, Father Warczynski was assigned as associate pastor at St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church in Westernport. From 1946 to 1949, he was associate pastor at the now-closed St. Paul Roman Catholic Church at Caroline and Oliver streets in Baltimore.
Father Warczynski was associate pastor at Holy Rosary Roman Catholic Church on South Chester Street for 14 years before being named pastor at Sacred Heart of Mary in 1963.
In 1981, he was granted a medical leave because of severe thrombosis and phlebitis. He officially retired two years later.
During his tenure at Sacred Heart, Father Warczynski led the effort to build a new school and parish hall that were completed in the 1960s.
"He was ordained in the era of Latin and then was made a priest and pastor. He was then asked to build a school and led his people through Vatican II, all at the same time," said Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, who had been Father Warczynski's altar boy.
"He was an easygoing man who was dedicated to his people and had a great sense of humor," Bishop Rozanski said. "One day after the parish carnival, my parents saw him carrying several canvas bags of coins to the bank, when he turned and said to them, 'Brother, can you spare a dime?' "
The Rev. Michael J. Roach, pastor of St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Manchester, was an old friend.
"Father Warczynski was a lovely man and a very wise shepherd. I thought very highly of him," Father Roach said. "He was a big Polish man and a real presence, very self-effacing and humble, and brought vital leadership to his parish."
His niece, with whom he had lived since 1981, said he "always put others first."
"He never liked nor wanted the limelight," Ms. Andryszak said.
"He was an old-time priest who always dressed in black and liked driving black Pontiacs," she said. "But on his days off, he'd come home and put on what I called his 'civilian clothes' and then take his mother out to eat. They were very, very close."
Ms. Andryszak, who called Father Warczynski "wujciu," Polish for uncle, said he enjoyed boating, fishing and clock collecting. "He liked cuckoo clocks and clocks that chimed," she said.
A funeral Mass was offered at his church Thursday.
In addition to his niece, he is survived by two brothers, Edward W. Warczynski of Hampstead and Eugene Warczynski of Fells Point; a sister, Alvina Pakula of Fells Point; and two nephews.