The Very Rev. John N. Peabody, 88

September 22, 2002|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

The Very Rev. John N. Peabody, retired dean of the Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation, died Tuesday of complications of Alzheimer's disease at Copper Ridge in Sykesville. He was 88 and had lived in Guilford for many years.

During his 32 years at the North Baltimore congregation, he often spoke out on ecumenical, racial and world peace issues. In the 1960s, he was seen on a local television program, To Promote Good Will, where he appeared with other clergy.

Born in Farmington, Conn., he was raised in Fort Washington, Pa., and attended Germantown Academy outside Philadelphia. He earned a degree in 1936 from the University of Pennsylvania, where he was captain of the varsity crew team that placed second in the Olympic trials that year.

He was class president and received his divinity degree from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1940. After his ordination in 1941, he served at parishes in Arlington, Va., the Philadelphia suburb of Chestnut Hill, and in State College, Pa., where he worked with Penn State students and was a prison chaplain.

He came to Baltimore in 1952 as Incarnation's rector, and was made its dean Nov. 6, 1955.

Retired Bishop David K. Leighton recalled that Dean Peabody was brought to the University Parkway cathedral under the aegis of then-Bishop Noble C. Powell. "It was thought that Jack's background at Penn State would help with the Johns Hopkins community, just cattycorner across Charles Street."

"He was a very active human being. He was much interested in the ecumenical movement," Bishop Leighton said. "He was open with his Jewish friends and got in with all the chaplains at the local colleges. He was friendly and outgoing - and a scholarly, erudite preacher.

"And when new clergy was transferred into the diocese, he and his wife had a dinner party and made people feel at home," Bishop Leighton said.

"He was just very gracious and generous to me - and to my family - encouraging of building on the foundation he had laid," said his successor, Dean Van Gardner. "Even after retiring, he returned to the cathedral with his wife, sat in the congregation and genuinely joined in the celebration. It was a real gift to me."

Dean Peabody's ability to work his with congregation was recalled by its members.

"He was a generous and kind man," said Jane Lenhard, a former parishioner who lives in Guilford. "He was wonderful with families, a good counselor. He offered sage advice. You could go to him with a problem. He was good at listening and solving things."

"We found him a pleasant, conscientious, dedicated person," said Samuel Hopkins, a member the committee that approved him for the Baltimore post in 1952. "We drove up to State College, attended a service and had lunch with him. He ultimately fit in very well in Baltimore."

Friends said he worked closely with Johns Hopkins students and offered prayers at the school's graduations and Founder's Day observances. He was among the originators of the North Baltimore neighborhood alliance, the Greater Homewood Community Corp.

They also said that he was concerned with the issue of world peace. He was chairman of the Interfaith Coalition on the Nuclear Dilemma, which presented forums on the threat of nuclear war. He opened his church to interfaith conferences on the arms race.

"A wise and compassionate shepherd of his congregation through the years, Dean Peabody has been an inspiration to his parishioners," Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes said in remarks printed in the Congressional Record in 1984, the year he retired from the cathedral.

After his retirement, Dean Peabody assisted at Trinity Episcopal Church in Towson and All Saints Episcopal Church in Frederick. He also was chaplain and a board member at the former Church Home and Hospital.

A former president of the Maryland Council of Churches and of its successor, Maryland Churches United, he belonged to the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Jewish-Christian Roundtable.

He enjoyed painting and sailing at Silver Lake in New York, where he spent his summers.

A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Sept. 29 at Cathedral of the Incarnation, 4 E. University Parkway.

Dean Peabody is survived by his wife of 61 years, the former Ruth Junker; three sons, John N. Peabody Jr. of Westminster, Bradford C. Peabody of Baltimore and Jeffrey T. Peabody of San Diego; and a grandson.

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