Austin Frederick Schildwachter, 84, rector, chaplain

July 31, 2002|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

The Rev. Austin Frederick Schildwachter, former rector of St. John's Huntingdon Episcopal Church and Maryland National Guard chaplain, died of pneumonia Monday at Pickersgill Retirement Community in Towson. The former Ruxton resident was 84.

Born in Baltimore and raised in the Walbrook area, he was a graduate of Catonsville High School.

As a youth, he was an active communicant of St. Mark's-on-the-Hill Episcopal Church in Pikesville. He pursued an interest in religious education for three years at the old Debose College in Chattanooga, Tenn., and earned his bachelor's degree in divinity in 1945 at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Va.

After his ordination as an Episcopal priest in 1946, Mr. Schildwachter was assigned as vicar of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Oakland. While serving as rector of the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Westminster from 1950 to 1958, he established St. George's Chapel in Manchester in 1957.

"Next to my family, he was the most influential person in my life," said the Rev. C. Allen Spicer, who had been an acolyte as a teen-ager at the church in Westminster and is associate rector of Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in Lutherville.

"He was a very kind, pastoral person who cared about all of God's people, whether they were young or old. He felt that once called, he was a priest for life," Mr. Spicer said.

He arrived as rector of St. John's Huntingdon in 1958, at a pivotal time in its history.

"He helped integrate St. John's and reached out to all of God's people," said the Rev. Charles E. Cloughen Jr., longtime rector of St. Thomas' Homestead Episcopal Church in Towson.

In 1995, Mr. Schildwachter received the Bishop's Award for Distinguished Ministry for the Diocese of Maryland. Mr. Cloughen, who made the award presentation, wrote at the time:

"He touched the lives of young and old, sick and healthy, friend and stranger as he served both the church and students at Western Maryland College and patients at Springfield State Hospital. From the rolling hills of Carroll County, he accepted a call to serve on the streets of Baltimore, as rector of St. John's Huntingdon Episcopal Church."

"He was always very kind and open to everyone. He was easygoing and was able to get along with the poor as well as the wealthy," said Mike Simon of Charles Village, the church's gardener since 1978.

After retiring from St. John's in 1980, Mr. Schildwachter accepted the post of associate rector of St. Thomas' in Towson. Though he formally retired a second time in 1998, he continued working at the church in its homebound ministry and as a co-chaplain at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson.

"He was the embodiment of the Good Samaritan. He loved everybody and was a faithful priest. He was a father, grandfather and brother to the parishioners of St. Thomas'," Mr. Cloughen said. "He was one of the most gracious Christian gentleman I've ever met."

Mr. Schildwachter joined the Maryland National Guard in 1948 and served as its chaplain until retiring in 1977 with the rank of colonel. At his death, he was chaplain of American Legion Post No. 174 in Timonium and the Greater Baltimore Chapter of the Retired Officers of America.

Proud of his military service, he always had an American flag attached to the front fender of his car.

"He was such a delightful man and was a credit to the Chaplaincy Corps. During summer encampments, he'd sleep in the field with the troops," said Philip Sherman, a Baltimore lawyer and retired brigadier general in the Guard.

In 1945, Mr. Schildwachter married Elizabeth Jean Sanders, who died in 1991.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at St. Thomas' Homestead Episcopal Church, 1108 Providence Road.

Survivors include his wife of 10 years, the former Betty C. Smith; a daughter, Priscilla Tiralla of Phoenix; a stepson, Stephen Smith of Glyndon; two stepdaughters, Katherine Ward and Peggy Holland, both of Roanoke, Va.; and six grandchildren.

His sons Mark and Thomas Schildwachter died in 1953 and 1997, respectively.

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