William Reyer, 66, mortician who turned to ministry

January 19, 2003|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

The Rev. William Hugo Reyer, a retired mortician and cosmetologist for 32 years who dedicated much of his life to his church, died at home Thursday of colon cancer. He was 66 and lived in Forest Park.

He had worked at numerous funeral homes in the area, including Sol Levinson & Bros. in Baltimore in the 1970s, the Edna Pumphrey Funeral Home in Silver Spring during the 1960s, Tyson Wheeler and Danzansky-Goldberg in Rockville, and others in the Washington metropolitan area. His skills at embalming and cosmetology brought calls for help from many area homes, said his wife of 40 years, the former Anita M. Priolo.

Born in the Bronx, Mr. Reyer moved to Maryland in 1938 and grew up in Chevy Chase. Immediately after graduation from high school in June 1954, he and six friends enlisted in the Marine Corps, and he served for two years in Korea, Japan, Okinawa, Guam and other areas of the Pacific on land and sea, including aboard the aircraft carrier USS Boxer.

After he left active duty, he was attending American University in Washington when he took a career aptitude test, Mrs. Reyer said. He didn't like the role of salesman, but found himself well-suited for another suggested career: mortician. He tried it out, working at the Edna Pumphrey home, then earned his degree at the American Academy of Funeral Directors in New York.

"You had to have a certain personality and way of looking at life," Mrs. Reyer said. "He loved being around people, and he loved serving people."

He returned to the Washington area and began a 32-year career, concluding as a counselor at the Gate of Heaven cemetery in Silver Spring. He retired after he became disabled in 1992.

During the 1970s, he became a pastor, then a licensed minister at the Halpine Baptist Church in Rockville. The couple worked many weekends as evangelists in Baltimore and New York for 17 years, and they served as missionaries overseas.

They moved to Forest Park in 1990, after being sent to Baltimore by the Rockville church. They conducted training at about 30 churches, and Mr. Reyer then served on the staff of what was then called the Belvedere Baptist Church in Towson, where he was an associate pastor until he became too ill about 1997.

Funeral services will be at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow, preceded by a one-hour wake, at Belvedere Christian Church, 1301 Cheverly Road, Towson.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by four sons, Anthony Reyer of Silver Spring, Timothy Reyer of Germantown, Thomas Reyer of Hanover and Thaddaeus Reyer of Middle River; a sister, Lois Goldsby of Greenbelt; and eight grandchildren.

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