The balding guy with a shy way about him would always sit in the back of the church, usually by himself, and silently slip out after Communion and before the final hymn.

Congregants at Old St. Paul's in downtown Baltimore recalled one-time vestryman William Donald Schaefer on a glorious Easter Sunday, just three days before the former mayor and governor will return to his old church one last time.

Services for Schaefer, who died at 89 a week ago, will be held at the historic church Wednesday after he lies in state at the State House and in City Hall Monday and Tuesday. Old St. Paul's will be the last stop before the cemetery on a tour that will take his body past many of the places associated with him in life.

At some of those places Sunday, people who knew him personally or only by reputation paused to reflect on a man whose career in public service spanned six decades.

Former state Sen. Howard Denis, whose 18 years in Annapolis coincided with Schaefer's two terms as governor, stopped by the statue of his old friend at Harborplace with his wife, Babette, on Sunday. Among the flowers at the base of the statue were ones he left, Denis said.

"Obviously, being from Montgomery County, we didn't always see things eye to eye," the longtime Republican legislator said. One of the matters they clashed over was the use of state money to build the Orioles' baseball stadium.

"He was fair and square, and now I'm going to Camden Yards to see the Orioles," said Denis, decked out in Yankees regalia.

At one of the other spots on Schaefer's last tour, Jimmy's Restaurant in Fells Point, owner Nick Filipidis said that on Monday he plans to display Schaefer's beloved African violets and to hang a banner provided by Baltimore's Greek community.

Sitting on the steps of the next-door Lancaster Street home Schaefer owned and used as a campaign headquarters, Filipidis said his regular customer always sat at the big table in the back and ordered the same breakfast: tea, scrambled eggs, home fries, toast and no meat.

Filipidis remembered Schaefer as a man who was devoted to his city.

"He wasn't married. He was married to Baltimore, and that was his wife and his life," he said.

Longtime members at Old St. Paul's recalled a fellow worshipper who didn't want folks to make a fuss over him.

"He would come in, sort of sit by himself, and take Communion and be a quiet presence," said current vestryman Cleaveland Miller, one of about a dozen parishioners who attended the 8 a.m. service.

Dr. William Cook, who attended the 11 a.m. service, remembered Schaefer as a close friend of his father, the late Rev. Halsey Moon Cook, rector of the church from 1961 to 1981. Cook said that as City Council president, Schaefer appreciated his father's decision to live in the downtown rectory a block away from the church at a time when many residents were fleeing the city.

When he became mayor, Schaefer took care not to be a distraction to other worshippers, Cook said.

"He would leave before the last hymn so he could come and worship and not be a celebrity," said Cook, who grew up in the rectory with five siblings. "He would always leave after Communion and step out quietly."

Cook said Schaefer was on an overseas trade mission in Europe as governor when Cook's father died in 1989.

"He sent the largest centerpiece of flowers I had ever seen in remembrance of my father," he said.

The current rector, the Rev. Mark Stanley, said Schaefer wasn't a man who would show off his religious belief but was willing to talk about it when invited. He said he once asked Schaefer to do a forum on how his faith guided his public service.

"He was just as you would think. He had stories," Stanley said.

Congregants said Schaefer would usually sit by himself as plainclothes security officers hovered in the background. But congregant Tom Shettle said Schaefer sometimes attended with his longtime companion, Hilda Mae Snoops, who died in 1999 and is interred at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens, where Schaefer will lie next to her.

Shettle said Schaefer was a generous, interesting man but sometimes off-color in his language. Shettle said he once wrote Schaefer to admonish him for his choice of words, and Schaefer apologized.

"He was a quiet man except when you made him angry," Shettle said.

Clarence Smith said he will always remember his fellow parishioner as "Mayor Schaefer."

"There isn't a person here who doesn't have a Mayor Schaefer anecdote," Smith said. But despite Schaefer's public persona, Smith says, he wasn't a hand-shaker like most politicians.

"As outgoing as he was, part of him was shy," Smith said.

The Rev. Mary Lock Stanley, associate rector, said Wednesday will be a big day at the old parish, which dates to 1692. She said the church has itself organized for the service and has done "a serious cleanup." While the church, which was built in 1856, seats 850, she said 2,000 people are expected to attend.

"We feel that it's a real way to serve this city," she said. "We're so excited to provide hospitality and invite everyone in."

michael.dresser@baltsun.com