Schaefer's long-time aide, Lainy LeBow-Sachs, now a vice president at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, helped him get dressed that morning. He "felt stupid in that costume" at first, she says, but once the proceedings began, his instincts took over.

"I'm a man of my word," he announced as he flapped in the water, according to newspaper accounts. "It would have been beneath my dignity to make a promise and not keep it!"

"He was goofing off like you wouldn't believe," LeBow-Sachs says. "What an actor."

Photographers snapped away, including Sun staffer Lloyd Pearson, the man who took the famed image of the Mayflower vans that moved the Colts from Baltimore under cover of darkness three years later.

Editors included both images in a May 2012 issue of the Sun Magazine that commemorated the newspaper's 175th anniversary.

Walker, too, remembers Schaefer's gift for clowning — "he was really in his element," she says — and recalls how a friendly seal approached her, jabbed at the stone with his fin, and barked in a friendly way.

Then, she says, the 59-year-old mayor splashed over and offered his cheek for a smooch. She obliged, he placed his hat over his heart, and Pearson captured the moment.

"We didn't exchange two words," Walker says. "It was just the kiss. If I had to choose one or the other, I'd still go for the kiss. It's more fun."

As he got out, the mayor told reporters she was a lot prettier than the seals. Images of the day appeared in Time and Newsweek and on "Good Morning America," taking his maverick reputation international.

Walker gave up modeling not long afterward, largely because she was spending so much time with BeLer. During their 15-year relationship, she developed a passion for cooking, made suggestions he worked into his businesses, and came to love Ocean City, where she has had a house near the beach since 1994.

"The dream ended," she says, when BeLer, who was 25 years her senior, died in 1998. The couple never married.

Walker gained, and later lost, scores of pounds. She took up working at the bank and got a part-time cashier's job at Food Lion. She parlayed her love of the culinary arts into "Food For Thought," a weekly column she writes for an Ocean City newspaper, and a children's cooking class she teaches each summer.

Even though she must still work all four jobs, Walker says she's grateful for her "pumpkin phase." The summer classes are always full. She has invented a creamy low-fat dressing for children, Strawberries 'n Cream, and hopes a distributor will pick it up. "I was on the anti-obesity thing early," she says.

She's now working on an idea for a TV cooking show and loves peppering her food column with lessons life has taught her, like the recent one in which she reprinted a recipe from her grandmother, then reflected on the old woman's passing.

"Accepting change," she wrote, "marks the birth of trust and signifies maturity. Maybe if I keep repeating these words, I will [believe them]."

She might have been describing the way she felt in May when The Sun republished the picture. She was so excited she called in to order a print for her father, who lives in Howard County. But seeing herself with Schaefer again reminded her how long ago she wore the sparkly fins.

"So much has changed since those times," the former beauty queen says. "It's hard not to miss them."

jonathan.pitts@baltsun.com

  • Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts