PORTLAND — The Rt. Rev. Frederick B. Wolf, 76, died Tuesday at Cedars Nursing Care Center.
Wolf served as the sixth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine from 1968 until his retirement in 1985. He worked as a pastoral counselor in private practice from 1986 to 1996. The former bishop had suffered a stroke in September.
“His support has been a source of great strength to me in the past year,” said the Rt. Rev. Chilton Knudsen, elected to lead the diocese in November 1997. “He would often drop me short notes, cheering me on or gently sharing his wisdom about some aspect of Episcopal ministry.
“In one of our last conversations, Fred asked me to promise that I would care well for his beloved Diocese of Maine,” she said.”I will be sustained for all of my days by the fact that his were among the hands laid on my head when I was consecrated a bishop.”
Wolf was ordained in 1945 by the Diocese of Chicago, where Knudsen served before her election as bishop in Maine. He served churches in Illinois and Vermont before his consecration as bishop on Oct. 4, 1968.
The ordination of women was the most significant change that occurred in the church during Wolf’s tenure. While he initially opposed women joining the clergy, he changed his position in 1976. In December 1977, he ordained Elizabeth Habecker the first woman Episcopal priest in Maine.
During Wolf’s episcopate, eight new congregations were formed and he instituted the Fred C. Scribner Award for distinguished service and lay ministry, an occasional award named after the first recipient. During his retirement, Wolf had a practice as a licensed clinical counselor and also led retreats for people in recovery from alcoholism.
Michael Clark, a member of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Houlton, considered Wolf a personal friend. Clark served on the Diocesan Council when Wolf was bishop.
“He knew everybody at every church by their first name,” said Clark. “He had an uncanny ablity to remember little things about people and their families. He came to The County a lot. Attendance and membership was very strong in those days. He was a hard-working bishop, a good friend and fellow human being. I feel honored to have shared time with him.”
Clark compared Wolf’s personal style to Knudsen’s, who has traveled extensively throughout the diocese since her consecration in March. Knudsen will preside at Wolf’s funeral service at 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 2, at the Cathedral of St. Luke in Portland. After cremation, Wolf’s ashes will be interred in the Bishop’s Garden adjacent to the cathedral at a later date.