The Rev. Charles LeRoy Hein, who had been rector of St. Thomas' Episcopal Church in Towson and had served on several boards, died Sunday of renal failure at Buckingham's Choice Retirement Center in Buckeystown. He was 88.
Mr. Hein, the son of a businessman and a homemaker, was born at home in Glen Burnie. After graduating from Glen Burnie High School in 1938, he earned a bachelor's degree in sociology in 1942 from the University of Maryland, College Park.
He earned a master's degree in divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1944 and was ordained a deacon that year. In 1945, he was ordained a priest by the Rt. Rev. Noble C. Powell, the Episcopal bishop of Maryland.
From 1950 to 1954, he was rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Smithfield, N.C., and served as rector from 1954 to 1960 of Grace Episcopal Church in Elkridge.
When Mr. Hein became rector of St. Thomas' Episcopal Church at the Alameda and 31st Street in 1960, its congregation was beginning to be affected by street crime.
"Cars were broken into on Sunday mornings, and pocketbooks were snatched. He told his congregation that 'we can either move or die,' " said his son, David Hein, professor of religion and philosophy at Hood College in Frederick.
"He found an 8-acre piece of property on Providence Road at the Beltway that was owned by the School Sisters of Notre Dame and was told that they would never sell," Dr. Hein recalled.
"But he was very engaging, charming and persuasive, and they agreed to sell. He then pushed his luck and asked them if they would hold the mortgage, which they declined to do," he said with a laugh.
The congregation sold its former church and moved into its present building after it was completed in 1970.
Dr. Hein said that his father's only ambition was to be a parish priest and that he resisted offers of positions within the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.
"He was a very spiritual man and saw his calling as a parish priest and wanted to be a good shepherd to his flock," his son said. "He was an old-fashioned gentleman, and as the Brits would say, he was 'holy without being pretentious.' "
Mr. Hein was known for his pastoral skills, calling on the sick, knocking on doors and visiting parishioners.
"I called him a Good Shepherd because he was kind, gentle and good to our parish," said Anna Ray Suter, who has been a member of St. Thomas' since the 1940s.
"He was always alert to medical problems, and the moment he heard someone was ill, he'd jump right over to the hospital to see someone who was sick," Miss Suter said.
"In his sermons, he related everything in life to living through the Bible," Miss Suter said.
Connie Waxter, a registered nurse who had been director of OB-GYN nursing at Johns Hopkins Hospital, was married in 1971 to her late husband, William Waxter, by Mr. Hein.
"He was a very good and caring rector," Mrs. Waxter said. But one day rector and parishioner had a disagreement over a patient at Hopkins who was about to go into surgery.
"The patient was very apprehensive, so I went to see her and I said I would accompany her to the operating room," Mrs. Waxter recalled.
"I saw Father Hein in the hall, and he said, 'No, you don't have to do that.' I'm a little over 5 feet, and I pulled myself up and said, 'You tend to your ministry, and I'll tend to nursing,'" Mrs. Waxter said with a laugh.
"It was a real surprise to him. He wasn't angry. He took it very nicely and let me do my duty, and we remained on good terms," she said. "I always respected his profession because he was so hardworking. We remained very close and I always enjoyed his company."
Eleanore P. Rippberger joined St. Thomas' in 1963. "My association with Mr. Hein was through my husband, who was the church organist and choir director," she said.
"Father Charles had such wonderful and beautiful hands. I remember the first time he gave me Communion. His fingers were long and slender and looked like the hands of Christ," she said.
"They were very visual. When he gave the blessing, his hands flowed with his body. It was extraordinarily beautiful to see," she said.
Mr. Hein, who had lived in Upperco for many years and later in Towson, retired in 1989.
After retiring, he was rector of the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Scarboro, Harford County.
Mr. Hein was a member of the board of trustees of the old Church Home and Hospital and the Glen Burnie Bancorp Inc.
An accomplished carpenter, Mr. Hein built houses and enjoyed making furniture. He also liked working on his car.
"He will be best remembered as a loving pastor and devoted shepherd of his people," his son said.
His wife of more than 50 years, the former Ruth Giese, who had been an administrative assistant in the chaplain's office at Greater Baltimore Medical Center, died in 2005.
A memorial service will he be held at 3 p.m. June 20 in St. Andrew's Chapel of the Bishop Claggett Diocesan Center, 3035 Buckeystown Pike, Buckeystown.
Also surviving is a sister, Irene H. Lipin of Hanover, Pa., and a grandson. Another son, the Rev. Stephen D. Hein, died this year.