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Rev. Lambert L. Bartels dies at 79

In 1972, he started Maranatha Chapel, which has focused on helping Tampa's inner-city youth.

© St. Petersburg Times
published May 15, 2002

TAMPA -- The Rev. Lambert L. Bartels, pastor of Maranatha Chapel of Tampa, died Tuesday (May 14, 2002). He was 79.

Born in Martland, Neb. on Sept. 9, 1922, he attended the University of Nebraska and Nebraska Wesleyan, majoring in mechanical engineering until he was drafted by the Army in 1945.

He served as a first lieutenant in the Army Corps of Engineers in the Philippines from 1945 to 1948. When he returned to the United States, he purchased a truck stop and farmer's fuel oil business in Aurora, Neb.

In February 1955, the Rev. Bartels decided to sell his business. He and his wife packed their five children, what they could fit into their car and a trailer, then headed east to Greenville, S.C., where he attended Bob Jones University. The family moved to Florida in 1957, where he continued his education at Trinity College in Dunedin.

The Rev. Bartels taught at Trinity College for several years while he was pastor at Hope Church, an inner-city, Cuban-Spanish-American mission church in West Tampa.

In 1972, he started Maranatha Chapel, which has focused on helping Tampa's inner-city youth.

"He was one of the most unselfish and caring people I've ever known" said Dan Sanders, an assistant minister at Maranatha Chapel, who knew the Rev. Bartels for 28 years.

Sanders and the Rev. Bartels first met when the church held services at the former S&S Cafeteria on Florida Avenue. The church met there for a few years until the congregation bought its current property on Lake Magdalene Drive.

The Rev. Bartels used his own home as collateral for the lakefront property.

"He was the perfect example of a good father, community leader and caring husband, who has a caring heart for kids," Sanders said.

For the past 40 years, the Rev. Bartels left home two hours early to pick up kids for church. He drove to Ybor City, West Tampa, North Tampa, Brandon and Ruskin.

"He was known for saying, 'Never go to church with an empty seat in your car,' " Sanders said.

The Rev. Bartels and his wife, Constance, who was chairwoman of the English department at Brandon High School for 20 years, spent one or two nights a week tutoring students. Together, they taught math, science, English composition and history to underprivileged children.

"Dad's greatest thrill was 'leading another one to Jesus,' " said Dr. Loren Bartels, the Rev. Bartels' son. "They did it on a shoe string, committing their whole beings to a ministry in which so many others had no interest."

Survivors include his wife of more than 50 years, Constance Gray Owen Bartels; three sons, Ronald O. Bartels, Ozark, Mo., Dr. Loren J. Bartels, Tampa and Eric P. Bartels, St. Petersburg, Russia; two daughters, Terry B. Franjione, Johnson City, Tenn., and Lois B. Johns, Dallas, Texas; 11 grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; and many relatives and friends.

Visitation will be at 7:30 p.m. today at Maranatha Chapel, 15923 Lake Magdalene Drive, Lutz. A farewell service will follow.

The children of the chapel are encouraged to write or draw a picture of their feelings of the Rev. Bartels to share with the congregation. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, contributions be sent to Maranatha Chapel at P.O. Box 280300, Tampa, FL, 33682.

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