Rev. Eric G. Peacher, Methodist pastor, dies

Longtime clergyman was associate pastor at Grace United for more than two decades

  • Eric Gustav Peacher
Eric Gustav Peacher
May 02, 2011|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

The Rev. Eric Gustav Peacher, who had been associate pastor at Grace United Methodist Church for more than two decades, died April 23 of Alzheimer's disease at a Mays Chapel assisted-living facility in Timonium.

He was 85 and had lived in Timonium.

Mr. Peacher, whose mother was a German immigrant mother and whose father was an American who owned and operated Peacher's Bakery, was one of 11 children. He was born at home in a North Streeper Street rowhouse, where he was also raised.

Mr. Peacher dropped out of Polytechnic Institute in 1944, when he enlisted in the Army Air Forces and served in Stockton, Calif., as a teletype operator.

"While living in Stockton, he earned his high school diploma and made the decision to become a Methodist minister," said his wife of nearly 60 years, the former Bernice Heflin.

After being discharged in 1946, Mr. Peacher enrolled at American University in Washington, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1950.

Also during those years, he became interested in youth work in the Baltimore-Washington Methodist Conference.

Mrs. Peacher said she met her future husband in 1948, while attending a social meeting at her church where he was leading the singing.

"There was an instant attraction, which led to a marriage," she said.

The couple married in 1951.

Mr. Peacher attended Westminster Seminary, which was on the grounds of Western Maryland College, now McDaniel College, in Westminster. After graduating in 1954, he was ordained a Methodist minister.

Mr. Peacher began his career as pastor of two churches, Linden Heights United Methodist Church and Providence United Methodist Church.

"He worked hard to recruit members to these small churches. Linden Heights grew from an attendance of about 20 to over 100 members on Sundays," said Mrs. Peacher.

After leaving Linden Heights, he was appointed associate minister of Northwood-Appold United Methodist Church, where he served from 1958 to 1961, when he joined Beechfield United Methodist Church as pastor.

He was appointed associate pastor of Grace United Methodist Church on North Charles Street in 1969, where he remained until his 1991 retirement.

"Eric always did things at the last minute," Mrs. Peacher wrote in a biographical sketch of her husband. "For his Sunday sermon, he would brainstorm during the week, but didn't type his sermon until 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. Saturday night and then stayed up most of the night. The sermon was 'fresh in his mind,' he'd say," she wrote.

"To us, he was good old 'Preacher Peacher.' That was his nickname," said Kitty Allen, a longtime member of Grace United Methodist and editor of the church newsletter. "He was everybody's friend. He loved people, was curious about what they were doing and thoroughly approachable."

Mrs. Allen added that he was a "people person" who was a "great collaborator" and knew all the names of the church's members and their children.

He was a highly popular figure at Grace and earned such additional nicknames as "Eric the Cleric" and "Peachie."

"He wasn't shy about asking notable people to guest-preach, including Gov. Theodore R. McKeldin; Gov. William Donald Schaefer; Raymond Berry, a Baltimore Colt at the time; and others," wrote Mrs. Peacher.

During the mayoral years of Mr. Schaefer, Mr. Peacher was often called upon to give the invocation at City Council meetings. During the 1970s, he was a co-founder and served as president of the Clergy Brotherhood, a group composed of local ministers, rabbis and priests.

In addition to his work at Grace, he was chaplain for 30 years of the Boumi Temple Shriners and had served as chaplain of the Mid-Atlantic Shriners.

Mr. Peacher had been a member of the board of Western Maryland College and served as a member of the Governor's Committee for the Handicapped. He also had been a leader of International Fellowship, a Methodist travel group.

After retiring, Mr. Peacher became the minister of visitation at Towson United Methodist Church, a position he held for nine years until fully retiring in 2000.

"I've known him a good part of my life, and he was a wonderful man," said the Rev. David S. Cooney, pastor of Towson United Methodist Church.

"He was very active here as a church participant. He was an extremely caring, gregarious man. He was always very unassuming and was deeply interested in others," he said. "As our minister of visitation, he went to hospitals, nursing homes and members' homes."

One of the highlights of his life, his wife said, was attending the 1963 March on Washington and hearing the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

In addition to travel, Mr. Peacher was a sports fan and enjoyed playing golf.

"He really had no hobbies. His life was his ministry," said Mrs. Peacher.

Services for Mr. Peacher were held Friday at Towson United Methodist Church.

In addition to his wife, survivors include a son, Glenn Eric Peacher of Abingdon; a daughter, Cheryl Sovitsky of Pylesville; three sisters, Grace Lassahan of Bel Air, June Grden of White Hall and Ruth Davis of Timonium; six grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

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