The Rev. John J. Lobell, a retired Episcopal priest who had served at several area churches before becoming a pastoral counselor, died Monday of stomach and liver cancer at his Columbia home.
Mr. Lobell was 86.
Mr. Lobell, the son of a Baltimore shoe polish manufacturer and a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised in Homeland.
He was a 1940 graduate of Staunton Military Academy in Staunton, Va., and during World War II served in the Army Air Forces.
After the war, he attended the University of Maryland, College Park and earned a bachelor's degree in 1949 from St. John's College in Annapolis.
After graduating from college, he purchased a farm in Leesburg, Va., where he and his first wife raised cattle, goats and sheep.
Tiring of farming, he sold the farm and joined his father, James V. Lobell, who founded the Cavalier Shoe Polish Co. in 1923.
Mr. Lobell, who co-owned the business with his father, left it in the early 1960s and earned a divinity degree in 1964 from Virginia Episcopal Seminary in Alexandria.
He was ordained an Episcopal priest by Bishop Harry Lee Doll in 1965. During the mid-1960s until 1970, he served the parishes of St. Mary's in Abingdon, Resurrection in Joppa, Messiah in Baltimore, St. Alban's in Glen Burnie and Redeemer in North Baltimore.
From 1970 to 1974, he worked at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center at Spring Grove State Hospital.
In 1974, Mr. Lobell made a career change and for almost three decades was a pastoral counselor with the Pastoral Counseling and Consultation Centers of Greater Baltimore. He retired in 1990.
Dr. William F. Hugg, a pastor and psychology counselor, was a longtime friend.
"Forty years ago, we were in a training program at Spring Grove for pastoral counseling as a specialized ministry, and we still saw or talked to each other at least once a week," said Dr. Hugg, who since 1976 has been in private practice in Catonsville.
"He had a great love for humanity, and in John, you saw God's love for people. He always gave them a big bear hug, and it wasn't uncommon to hear people say, 'He changed my life,'" Dr. Hugg said.
"He always was on the same level with them and connected with their hearts," he said.
Dr. Hugg recalled that Mr. Lobell was also known for his daily "Dialogues with Jesus."
"He would have these dialogues each morning, which he wrote down, and then once a month, he'd send one to those of us on his list," he said. "He was tenacious in his spiritual dialogue with Jesus, whom he was trying to get to know better."
The Rev. Bill Mockus, a Roman Catholic priest who is a pastoral counselor and chaplain at Heartland Hospice, was a friend for more than 20 years.
"He was a force and a man of very positive faith and hope. He was also a man of incredible relationships, and he valued them," Father Mockus said. "I remember him in meetings at the Bon Secours Spiritual Center in Marriottsville. I think there were 20 to 25 men in the group," he said. "He was always sharing and did not preach. What he offered was a genuine invitation to self-discovery."
After retiring, Mr. Lobell continued to counsel those in need with his wife of 35 years, the former Carol Elaine Adams, in their Columbia home.
He was also an active member of Kittamaqundi Community Church, a nondenominational Columbia church.
"He had a gift of encouraging us to open up to love. His hugs were warm and inviting, and his warmth embraced all who knew him," said his wife.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Aug. 15 at his church, 5410 Leaf Threader Way.
Also surviving are three sons, Jim Lobell of Rockville, Mark Lobell of Valencia, Calif., and Peter Lobell of Osaka, Japan; a daughter, Dee Bratcher of Arlington, Texas; a stepson, Scott Johnson of Columbia; two stepdaughters, Christine Lachance of Clifton, Va., and Karen Watts of Lubbock, Texas; a half-brother, Jim Lobell of Oella; two half-sisters, Joan Lobell of Baltimore and Judy Lobell of Annandale, Va.; 18 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. His first marriage ended in divorce.