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Published: Saturday, 3/1/2008

Orthodox priest was born in Bulgaria

The Very Rev. Venseslav Dimitroff, 84, a priest for two decades of a Bulgarian Orthodox church in East Toledo who arrived after years serving the Orthodox Bulgarian community in Turkey, died Wednesday in Lake Park Comfort Care Center, Sylvania, from complications of prostate cancer and pneumonia.

He was in pain as the cancer spread to his bones, recalled the Rev. Paul Gassios of St. George Orthodox Cathedral in Rossford.

"He would speak to me and say in a deep voice, 'Patience.' That was his word to me - for us to persevere," Father Paul said.

Father Venseslav retired in 1995 from what was then St. George Bulgarian Orthodox Church on Oswald Street, where he had served as priest since 1975.

About 12 years earlier, one of St. George's founders stopped in Istanbul to see Father Venseslav and asked him to come to St. George when Father Kyrill became Bulgarian Orthodox bishop of Toledo.

But Father Venseslav could not leave because his father, also an orthodox priest, was ill with prostate cancer, his daughter, Kathy, said.

"I think it was our destiny to come to Toledo," his daughter said. "I had heard about Toledo since I was 3 years old. My dad always talked about going to Toledo, going to Toledo. I was 16 in 1975 when we arrived."

Most of the services at St. George were in Bulgarian or Slavonic, and he never quite mastered English, his daughter said.

Still, he was drawn to people and drawn to conversation, especially about history.

"He was a very extroverted person," his daughter said. "He didn't care what religion people were. Some were even atheists, but he loved talking to them. He had that sense of service that made him a successful priest."

Father Venseslav, a native of Bulgaria who grew up in Turkey, became a U.S. citizen in 1996.

Surviving are his wife, Marina, whom he married Nov. 7, 1955, and daughter, Kathy Dimitroff.

Divine liturgy will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday in St. George Orthodox Cathedral on Glenwood Road in Rossford. Visitation will be in the cathedral from 5 to 9 p.m. tomorrow, with a Parastas service at 7 p.m., and from noon to 9 p.m. Monday, with a funeral at 7 p.m.

The family suggests tributes to the cathedral.

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