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At Harbor, Yards, thanks and tributes to Schaefer

FootballSculptureExecutive BranchOriole Park at Camden Yards

On a soft spring evening at Harborplace and Camden Yards, William Donald Schaefer was remembered in a way that surely would have delighted him: as the man who made it all possible.

"He had a lot of natural love for the city," Chad Elliott said as he strolled with his 2-year-old son past an illuminated statue of Schaefer near the Light Street pavilion at Harborplace. "You don't see that much anymore."

Elliott, 37, a chef from South Baltimore, remembered seeing Schaefer at the grand opening of the so-called festival marketplace that turned what had been a faded waterfront into a magnet for strollers, shoppers and sightseers.

"He was the king of Baltimore," Elliott said.

Children scampered up stone staircases, teenagers giggled over Italian ices and couples strolled hand-in-hand along the water Monday evening at the harbor. The breeze shook cherry tree blossoms near the statue, which commemorates the dates Schaefer served as a city councilman, mayor, governor and comptroller.

Longtime Baltimore residents said trips to the Harbor often evoke memories of Schaefer's legacy.

"I remember seeing him down here where the performers are," said Darnell Alston, 38, of Towson, who was strolling around the harbor with his wife and three daughters. "He did so much to reconstruct this area."

With bright banners that snap in the wind, brick promenades that get jammed with buskers and balloon-animal artists, and endless amusements both on land and in the water, Harborplace is where Schaefer's vision of the city came to its fullest fruition.

Just blocks to the west, Camden Yards was aglow as the Orioles returned for a home stand. The gem of a ballpark, which would spawn a host of imitators across the country, was another piece of the downtown renaissance Schaefer put into play. Stung by the city's beloved Colts being Mayflowered out of town in the dead of night, Schaefer fought for Camden Yards to be built and to exorcise the chance that the Orioles might follow suit.

On Monday evening, the flags were lowered to half-staff at the ballpark, a moment of silence was planned for Tuesday's game and the memories began flowing.

"You had to like the guy. Not only was he in tune with Orioles baseball, but also with everything that went on around Orioles baseball," broadcaster and former O's great Rick Dempsey said. "He was all about making life better around here. I did quite a few events with him where I spent some time with him, stuff about the Inner Harbor, and he was a hardworking man. He was one guy who always wanted to be known as the mayor of Baltimore."

To the south, M&T Stadium remains dark, with an NFL lockout threatening the next season. Still, Schaefer was remembered by the man who brought a football team back to a city bereft of its Colts.

"He's the reason the Ravens are here," Art Modell said. " He laid the foundation first as Baltimore's mayor and as governor of Maryland when he championed the funding of a new stadium. In fact, champion is the right word. Governor Schaefer was a champion for Baltimore, for Maryland and for the common man."

Roland Huebner could be one of those common men. At the Orioles game with his wife, Patricia, Huebner grew emotional hearing of Schaefer's passing. He was a photography teacher at Southwestern High School in Baltimore when he started taking pictures of Schaefer at public events, hoping to sell them. Despite never speaking to him, Schaefer found out who he was and had his secretary contact him.

"'The mayor remembers you from this summer,'" Huebner recalled the secretary telling him. "'He wants you to be guest of honor at Fort McHenry when they do the fireworks.'

"It blew my mind. And when I met him, he said, 'You took all those nice pictures. If I ever have a biography, I'd like to run some of your pictures there.' I was so touched. But that's just who he was. He was a man of the people. He cared about the little guy.

"He might have been a son of a gun at times, but he cared about people," Huebner said. "When you're born in Baltimore, and you're raised in Baltimore, there are few giants you always remember. Don Schaefer was one of them."

Over the years, they stayed in touch — the Huebners worked the polls for him and Schaefer gave Huebner a pair of cufflinks he still treasures, as well as a pin that reads, 'Always have pride in Maryland.'"

At the Inner Harbor, even recent transplants said they were awed by Schaefer's legacy.

Barbara Fairfield and Charlie Wing of West Bath, Maine, had been sailing to the Bahamas last fall when they tied up at the harbor.

"We stopped here and fell in love," said Wing, an author of do-it-yourself manuals. The couple said they walk past the statue of Schaefer several times a day and quickly learned of his contributions to the city.

"He certainly created a masterpiece here," said Wing. "I don't think there's anything else like it in the United States."

Kevin Van Valkenburg, Dan Connolly and Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.

jean.marbella@baltsun.com

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

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