Pope Furman Brock Jr., 77, Church of Nativity priest

January 22, 2000|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

The Rev. Pope Furman Brock Jr., former assistant rector of the Episcopal Church of the Nativity who was known for his ministry with the sick, elderly and shut-ins, died Sunday of a pulmonary embolism at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson. He was 77.

Father Brock, a gentle man with an easygoing demeanor, retired in 1994 from the Cedarcroft church, where he had been assistant rector for 14 years.

The nephew of a Southern Railway locomotive engineer and a lifelong train buff, Father Brock was seldom without his trademark blue-and-white-striped denim B&O engineer's hat, which he wore daily and on visits to communicants and at church events.

"He lived in that hat," said his wife of 25 years, the former Mickey Sentz.

Before joining the staff of the Church of the Nativity, Father Brock had been the chaplain at Church Home Hospital in East Baltimore, where he honed his skills working with the sick and elderly.

"He wanted to assist people by offering them spiritual and emotional support during their time of despair or illness," said Mrs. Brock.

The Rev. C. Allen Spicer, former rector of the Church of the Nativity who is now rector of St. George Episcopal Church in Perryman, said, "He was a very compassionate person who was always concerned about the sick. It was a strong part of his ministry. He knew how to care for them and what he did at Church Home carried over into our parish."

"He was also particularly good at carrying the Eucharist to nursing homes and retirement communities," said Theodore Hendricks, a longtime church member and retired Sun reporter. "And he had a wonderful way of communicating with people."

A lanky six-footer whose voice bore traces of his Georgia roots, Father Brock was born in Macon and reared in Atlanta, where he graduated from high school. He earned bachelor's and law degrees from the University of Georgia in Athens in the 1940s.

While working for the Georgia Parole Board and planning to become a labor lawyer, he was diagnosed with what doctors thought was Parkinson's disease. The diagnosis was later changed to a Parkinson's-like disease, which was controlled by medication throughout his life, Mrs. Brock said.

"I think it was certainly a factor in his decision to study theology," she said.

"His own illness made him sensitive to those who were sick," said Father Spicer.

Father Brock graduated from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1951 and was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1953.

After working at a rural church in upstate New York, he moved to Baltimore when he became assistant rector of the Church of the Messiah in Hamilton.

As a play on his name, Father Brock would laughingly advise people, "Don't call me Father. Just call me Pope."

Father Brock carried his interest in railroading over to his parish office, where he decorated his bookshelves with model railroad cars. When traveling, he preferred rail travel to other forms of transportation.

He also wrote poetry and was an animal lover.

"He always said, `I can't imagine heaven without a few dogs around,' " Father Spicer said with a chuckle.

His first marriage, to the former Ruth Dillon, ended in divorce.

A memorial service will be held at 3: 30 p.m. tomorrow at Epiphany Episcopal Church, 2216 Pot Spring Road in Timonium.

In addition to his wife, Father Brock is survived by two sons, Pope Furman Brock III of Chappaqua, N.Y., and Matthew Brock of Boston; a daughter, Alice Brock of Portland, Me.; a stepdaughter, Dawn Peck of Halethorpe; a sister, Mary Jane Brock of Atlanta; and three grandchildren.

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