As a mayor tormented by the issues of office, William Donald Schaefer sought the silence and solace of the church in downtown Baltimore where his funeral will be held Wednesday.
Alone, Schaefer turned to the traditional act of kneeling in prayer to confront vexing problems, such as how to keep the Baltimore Colts from leaving town. In the dim interior of Old St. Paul's, the oldest congregation in Baltimore — whose members included Revolutionary War figures John Eager Howard and Samuel Chase — Schaefer weighed how to deal with his personal thorns. These included Colts owner Bob Irsay, one of the few people who outmaneuvered him, when he moved the football team.
"There was something about his faith that was pretty fundamental," said the Rev. William C. McKeachie, his former rector, who is now dean emeritus of the Episcopal cathedral in Charleston, S.C. "I would walk into an empty church and there he would be, in a pew, deep in prayer on a Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon. He would say to me, 'I'm having such a terrible time with this Colts business.'"
Those who knew this aspect of his personality describe Schaefer's spirituality as deep but intensely personal. During his days as mayor, he served as a church vestry member.
"He was very faithful. He'd slip into the 8 a.m. Sunday service when there were only 15 or 25 other persons present," McKeachie said. "He came and went and took Communion. He also told me there was no greater honor for a Baltimorean than to have been a vestryman at Old St. Paul's."
The site of Schaefer's funeral is an Italian Romanesque 1856 church at the corner of Saratoga and Charles streets that seats nearly 800 people. His coffin will rest in a main aisle surrounded by American and English stained-glass windows and facing an altar decorated by the Louis Comfort Tiffany firm. The congregation has worshipped in a series of buildings here since it acquired a building lot in the 1720s.
The Rt. Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, Maryland's Episcopal bishop, and the Rev. Mark Stanley, rector of Old St. Paul's, and his wife, the Rev. Mary Luck Stanley, will officiate.
"He was not effusive about his faith, but he cared out of a sense of compassion," said Mark Stanley. "He talked about who might be overlooked or who was needy."
Also speaking at the funeral will be the Rev. Luther Starnes, who served in state government under Schaefer and counted him as a close friend for nearly four decades.
"He really did care about individuals in need," said Starnes, who retired last year as a Methodist minister and had served as secretary of the Department of Human Resources. "He'd have me make personal visits to people to listen to their troubles. At Cabinet meetings, I was known as the secretary of hard luck."
Starnes said that Schaefer was also a regular at his Gary Memorial United Methodist Church in Ellicott City, where he attended services for about six years.
The eulogies will be given by Maryland Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, former U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume and longtime Schaefer aide Lainy LeBow-Sachs.
Reading the Scriptures will be state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, University of Maryland official and former chief of staff Mark Wasserman, and Ron Rogers, a retired city employee who lived in the same building as the former mayor and governor at the Charlestown retirement community.
The Morgan State University choir will sing.
The football marching band that refused to disband even after the Colts fled the city in 1984 will play as the former mayor lies in state at City Hall. LeBow-Sachs confirmed that what is now the Ravens Marching Band will honor Schaefer. "He loved, loved that band," she said.
LeBow-Sachs said that Schaefer's casket would be accompanied by a Maryland National Guard honor guard and musicians. A bagpiper and brass ensemble will also be part of the funeral. Several downtown streets will be closed, though specific information has not be released.
After the 11 a.m. funeral, Schaefer will be entombed at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Timonium beside his longtime companion, Hilda Mae Snoops.
Schaefer's aides said that they are requesting that any donations in his memory be made to the William Donald Schaefer Civic Fund administered by the Baltimore Community Foundation. The fund helps community groups and nonprofits.