The Rev. Donald F. Etherton, 72, Episcopal priest

May 29, 2000|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

The Rev. Donald F. Etherton, an Episcopal priest and community leader, died Friday from complications of a heart attack at his home in St. Michaels. He was 72.

At the time of his death, Father Etherton was vicar of Saint John's Chapel in Cornersville near Cambridge. He had been vicar of Christ Episcopal Church in St. Michaels from 1963 to 1994.

His family described him as a humanist, historian and a devotee of professional baseball, especially the Orioles.

"He saw goodness in absolutely everyone who walked this earth except, perhaps, the New York Yankees," said a son, Dr. Jeffrey H. Etherton, a cardiologist in Salisbury.

Father Etherton was born in Waverly in North Baltimore and graduated from Polytechnic Institute in 1947. He received a bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland and obtained a master's degree in divinity from Philadelphia Divinity School in 1954, the year he was ordained.

Father Etherton served at churches in Randallstown and Wilson Point before he was appointed rector of Christ Church in St. Michaels. He left there in 1994 to head the smaller congregation at St. John's Chapel.

Known as "Father Don," his family said that two of his more interesting experiences were the discovery and reacquisition of a historic baptismal font, silver chalice and communion set. Those articles were gifts to Christ Church in 1710,but had been removed during the Civil War.

He also led the restoration and beautification of Christ Church in 1987 and 1988.

"But his everyday work was helping people. He was unbelievable that way because he never grew weary of it," said his son. "He was genuine in his caring for people."

When he moved to St. Michaels in 1963, Father Etherton initiated a community Thanksgiving service, which he used to bring black and white neighborhoods together. He also started a summer recreation program that helped youngsters in and around St. Michaels learn athletic skills and sportsmanship.

Father Etherton was a lifelong fan of the Orioles and held season tickets most of his adult life. He was excited when the team acquired Harold Baines about 10 years ago; Father Etherton knew the Eastern Shore native as a child.

Father Etherton was involved in one of Mr. Baines' charities, the Bay Hundred Task Force.

He was a member of the Rotary Club for 37 years and Ducks Unlimited. He served several terms on the board of the Diocese of Easton and was chaplain of the Miles River Yacht Club for 37 years. He also was a longtime member of the St. Andrews Society, Izaac Walton league and the St. Michaels Ethics Committee.

Father Etherton enjoyed golf and was a member of the Talbot County Country Club and the Harbourtowne Golf Club at Martingham.

Services will be held 11 a.m tomorrow at Christ Episcopal Church, 103 Willow St.

In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife of 45 years, the former Gloria Timanus; two daughters, Deborah Etherton Keller of St. Michaels and Mary Beth Mussari of Ellicott City; two other sons, Daniel E. Etherton of St. Michaels and Michael D. Etherton of Silver Spring; a sister, Florence Kelly of West Palm Beach, Fla.; two brothers, Albert Etherton of Hollywood and James Etherton of Westminster; and nine grandchildren.

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