BALTIMORE | The ex-governors, Capitol Hill lawmakers and state legislators had by Wednesday largely said their goodbyes to William Donald Schaefer, and now it was time for this working-class city to bid farewell to their beloved mayor and native son.
“If you had a problem, he’d fix it for you. He was a neighborhood boy,” said city resident Robin Rider, who came to Old St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on a muggy overcast morning for Mr. Schaefer’s funeral service.
What separated Mr. Schaefer, a Democrat, from other politicians was his respect for “the blue-color life,” said Mr. Rider, wearing a top hat with a Baltimore Ravens-colored purple ribbon around the brim that read “Thank You.”
Mr. Schaefer died April 18 at age 89. He spent roughly 50 years of his life in public service - serving on the City Council from 1955 to 1971, followed by four terms as mayor, from 1971 to 1986, and two terms as governor, from 1987 to 1995. He closed out his political career by serving as Maryland comptroller from 1999 to 2007.
Longtime aide Lainy Lebow-Sachs remarked Wednesday that Mr. Schaefer may have never married nor had children, but that his staffers were his family and Baltimore was “his favorite child.”
“Truly we were his children,” she said. “He nurtured us … but he also scolded us, yelled at us and sent us to our rooms. … No matter what, if you had one shred of untapped potential, he would find it and pull it out of you. Instead of giving up, you found yourself working harder.”
If Baltimore was indeed Mr. Schaefer’s child, it had a lot for which to be grateful.
As mayor, Mr. Schaefer revitalized the largely industrial city by turning its dilapidated waterfront into the tourist mecca known as Harborplace. When in an Annapolis, as governor, he helped the Baltimore Orioles get a new stadium, Camden Yards, to keep the team from leaving town.
“He was bigger than life, so now you can’t imagine him being gone,” said Diane Coughlin, a Bel Air, Md., resident who worked for Mr. Schaefer when he was governor. “But it wasn’t about him. It wasn’t his ego that was bigger than life. It was his outreach.”
Inside the church, family, friends and colleagues recalled Mr. Schaefer’s desire for excellence as well as his temper, work ethic and humor — like the time in July 1981 when he donned a turn-of-the-century bathing suit and carried an inflatable duck into the Baltimore aquarium’s seal pool to settle a wager he made that the aquarium would open on time.
Outside the church, hundreds of passersby and workers on break leaned against the guard rails to watch the extensive motorcade of police motorcycles and black sport utility vehicles arrive, then depart the downtown church for Mr. Schaefer’s burial in Baltimore County.
The events capped three days honoring Mr. Schaefer’s life. An official service was held in Annapolis on Monday during which hundreds, including Gov. Martin O’Malley and all four living former Maryland governors, arrived to see Mr. Schaefer’s body lie in state. Another closed-casket viewing was held in Baltimore City Hall on Monday night and Tuesday.
The day was not with Maryland luminaries, including Mr. O’Malley, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and his wife, Kendel, of whom Mr. Schaefer was especially fond.
Said Ms. Mikulski: “He did know Baltimore. He did know his people. He did know his neighborhood, and he came to know his state.”
She said when she asked Mr. Schaefer what her agenda should be when elected to Congress, he told her: “Remember that the buck stops here, and the more the better.”View Entire Story
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Meredith Somers is a Metro reporter for The Washington Times. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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