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Longtime city priest passes away

August 04, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

A few weeks ago, a public plea was made for cards and letters to be sent to Monsignor Robert S. Passarelli, who had been in hospice care in his hometown of Frostburg, Md.

Word that Passarelli, 77, died Tuesday morning prompted expressions of sadness at the passing of the cleric who served St. Mary's Catholic Church for nearly 50 years.

"We understand a lot of people sent cards and letters to him and that he really enjoyed hearing from everyone," said Ann Garrott, whose husband, Jack, was responsible for the public plea.

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In a Letter to the Editor published in The Herald-Mail newspapers, Jack Garrott described Passarelli as a good-natured man who was always friendly but who also was firm in his moral convictions.

"And he wasn't afraid to stand up for them," the letter said.

Two years ago, Passarelli was honored for his half century of service as a priest with the Archdiocese of Baltimore. He received a commendation from the Maryland Senate and a Maryland Cup made of pewter, according to published reports.

Passarelli was ordained a priest on June 7, 1952, and was assigned to St. Michael's Parish in Overlea, Md., where he stayed for three months. After that brief stint, he came to St. Mary's Parish in Hagerstown, where he remained until his retirement on June 16, 1993.

He was named pastor of St. Mary's in 1969. Upon his retirement, he became pastor emeritus for St. Mary's Parish. In 1990, he was named monsignor.

"His contribution to our community for many, many years is to be held in remembrance," said the Rev. Janice Dorsey, current president of the Washington County Council of Churches and a friend of Passarelli through the years.

Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner said his first contact with Passarelli was as a student in high school at St. Mary's School.

"He was strict in his way, but we respected him," Breichner said. "He was a pillar of strength, very dedicated to the church and the school."

In later years, Breichner again crossed paths with Passarelli when he was employed by the city and then later as mayor.

"I remember we were having the first dedication of the Hagerstown Public Square renovations and we used a bunch of hot dogs Passarelli donated to the city for the celebration," Breichner said.

The gift of 1,776 hot dogs represented a prize the priest had won at a Baltimore Orioles baseball game, according to published reports.

"He was a reflection of both the church and the school ... he left his mark forever," Breichner said.

The Rev. Don Stevenson, pastor of Christ's Reformed Church of Hagerstown, said he met Passarelli in 1972.

"I was just new in town when I met this man who was tremendously committed but who also had his feet on the ground," Stevenson said.

Stevenson said he also will remember Passarelli as a good colleague to all area clergy.

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