Msgr. John W. Zeitler died Jan. 11, 2016, at Buffalo General Hospital, at age 83.
He was born Sept. 13, 1932, in Buffalo, to John B. and Mary (Schwabl) Zeitler. After his birthmother passed away in his infancy, his father married Bertha Butz, who raised him as her son.
Msgr. Zeitler graduated from Bennett High School in Buffalo and attended Michigan State University, where he was the captain of his university's NCAA baseball team and was signed by Major League Baseball's Detroit Tigers, playing for their farm teams for two years. He served in the U.S. Army from 1954-56 and the Army Reserve from 1956-59. He also received a master's degree in education from Canisius College and attended the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School for one year.
Msgr. Zeitler went to St. Phillip Neri School in Boston, Mass., from 1958-59, after which he went to Christ the King Seminary at St. Bonaventure University from 1959-60 and Collegium Canisianum in Innsbruck, Austria, from 1960-64. He was ordained to the priesthood on July 26, 1964, in Austria.
After returning to the United States, Msgr. Zeitler served in a missionary apostolate at St. Joseph Parish in Bliss in 1964. The following year, he began serving as a weekend assistant at St. Cecelia in Oakfield and an assistant professor at Notre Dame High School in Batavia. In addition to his assignment at Notre Dame, he was chaplain of the Genesee Community College Newman Club, beginning in 1973.
In 1974, Msgr. Zeitler was named assistant principal of Notre Dame High School; in 1978, he became principal of Bishop Turner High School in Buffalo, also serving an interim assignment at St. Mark in Rushford.
In 1980, he began serving as assistant pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Buffalo, and in 1984, as a campus minster at the Newman Center located on UB's North Campus in Amherst.
In 1990, Msgr. Zeitler was named administrator, and later pastor, of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Lake View, and was named a monsignor in 1993. After three terms, he retired in 2010, continuing to serve as a temporary administrator at Fourteen Holy Helpers in West Seneca and St. Peter in Lewiston.
Msgr. Zeitler was on the board of directors of St. Francis High School in Athol Springs and the Knights of Columbus' Bissonette Foundation, the Holy Name Society and the St. Vincent de Paul Society. He was also part of the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus, the Bavarian Singers and the American Legion.
He received the Curé of Ars Award from Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, the Father Justin Award from St. Francis High School, the Father Nelson Baker Award from the Diocesan Youth Department and the Mater Christi Award from Immaculata Academy in Hamburg.
For his achievements as a decorated high school and college baseball player, Msgr. Zeitler was also a member of the Western New York Baseball Hall of Fame, Bennett High School's Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame, Bennett High School's Sports Hall of Fame, the Harvard Cup Hall of Fame, the Notre Dame High School Hall of Fame and collegiate baseball awards at Michigan State University.
He is survived by a sister, Mary Ann Bourdon.
A funeral Mass was held at St. Joseph University Church in Buffalo, with burial in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Kenmore.