By Liz F. Kay, Scott Calvert and Laura Vozzella, The Baltimore Sun
7:03 PM EDT, May 17, 2011
William Donald Schaefer's ability to surprise, delight and confound was on display again Tuesday with the public release of his last will and testament, which showered bits of his $2.4 million estate on devoted aides, friends and institutions.
Beneficiaries ranged from multimillionaire baker and developer John Paterakis to a chauffeur, an obscure Ellicott City church and a man who introduced Schaefer to black church leaders a half-century ago, at the dawn of the future mayor, governor and state comptroller's political career.
"His will reflects all the things that so many people admired," said Zelig Robinson, Schaefer's longtime personal and campaign attorney, who first prepared his will 10 or 15 years ago and revised it at Schaefer's direction "from time to time," most recently in 2009. "He's thoughtful, he's careful and he's generous."
Not to mention unpredictable.
Schaefer, whose 50 years in public life put him in contact with thousands, singled out 20 people for special gifts. The largest by far went to Lainy LeBow-Sachs, his former aide and one of his personal representatives, who is to receive $500,000, as well as a quarter of whatever is left of the estate after it is distributed.
Jeanne Bell of Locust Point, a friend for 30 years who three years ago tried to help Schaefer thwart LeBow-Sachs' plan to move him to the Charlestown retirement community, received only his plate and stamp collections. Bell, who had Schaefer's power of attorney at one point, declined to comment.
"He did what he wanted to do," said LeBow-Sachs, adding that she was "stunned" by his large gift to her. "He's so wonderful and he just wanted to touch everybody a little bit."
The dollar value of the bequests was surely not the point for some beneficiaries. Schaefer, who died April 18, gave $1,500 to Paterakis, whose personal wealth was estimated at $240 million last year by The National Herald, a Greek-American newspaper. Brice Phillips, one of the founders of Phillips Seafood, got $2,500 — and the lone sentence-length tribute in an otherwise straightforward legal document: "He is one of the nicest men I have ever met."
Nelson J. Sabatini, who served as state secretary of health under Schaefer from 1991 to 1995, had a hard time believing he was given $1,500.
"Are you kidding me?" he told a reporter. "Wow. That's astounding."
"It's worth $10 million to me to know he was thinking about me the way he did," Sabatini said in an emotion-choked voice. "It makes me realize how justified I was in loving the old man the way I did."
Sabatini said he would try to think of how best to spend the money. Maybe, he mused, he'll plant African violets somewhere in Schaefer's honor.
"He gave me more than I could ever have asked, just in terms of his friendship and loyalty and what I learned from him," Sabatini said. "Look, the privilege of having been able to work for William Donald Schaefer was something you should almost have to pay for."
The value of Schaefer's estate is estimated in the will at $2.4 million, $2 million of that in personal property and $400,000 in real estate. But Matthew Penater, one of the attorneys working on the estate, said those numbers will not be finalized until an accounting is filed next February.
The will, filed with the Register of Wills in Baltimore County Circuit Court, dictates that his memorabilia, writings, photographs and other personal property be given to the William Donald Schaefer Foundation Inc. These items are now maintained by the Maryland State Archives.
The will stipulated that his funeral and related expenses were to be paid from his estate.
One of the more obscure beneficiaries is Roscoe Herring, a longtime assistant and friend of Schaefer's who stands to receive $2,000. Now 81, Herring says he helped Schaefer get to know influential members of the city's African-American community in 1970 while gearing up to run for mayor.
"My connection was — I am sure I'm right on this — I was the one who introduced him to the black community," Herring said. "Somehow I met him. I decided I was going to support him, so I took him to this breakfast with a group of Baptist ministers. It was at the Holiday Inn downtown. He met them, and they certainly liked him."
Their early interaction forged a bond that led to friendship and lasted four decades. In March, just a few weeks before Schaefer died, Herring says he got his last birthday card from the former governor, and as usual there was a check inside.
Herring says it "doesn't come as a total surprise" to hear that he made Schaefer's will. Still, he said, "It makes me feel great."
The former governor honored both the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore and the National Aquarium with $2,500 gifts as well as several churches, including Old St. Paul's Church in Baltimore, where his funeral was held.
He left $10,000 to Gary Memorial United Methodist Church in Ellicott City, which is tucked away inside Patapsco Valley State Park and has just 80 worshipers most Sundays. For about six years, Schaefer was among them, in part because his former secretary of human resources, Luther Starnes, was the pastor, and in part because the church was so obscure.
"He enjoyed being a part of our little church because he wouldn't get bothered by people," said the Rev. Timothy Kromer, the current pastor.
Starnes himself will get $5,000.
"He left me so much more than that," Starnes said. "He had a big impact on my life and what it was all about and what I could do to help other people."
Karen Blair, a secretary for Schaefer in City Hall and Annapolis who played a role in protecting him during a 1976 shooting, received $10,000. Blair had phoned Schaefer and warned him to stay inside his office when a gunman looking for the mayor stormed a building serving temporarily as City Hall, according to news reports of the time.
He gave former press secretary Louise Hayman $2,500 and Larry Tolliver, former state police superintendent, $2,000. "That shocks me," he said. "I expected all of his money to go to charity."
Schaefer gave state education Superintendent Nancy Grasmick $2,500 "to use for the educational needs of the children of the State of Maryland, in her sole discretion."
"How nice!" Grasmick said on hearing the news. "It is so like him to be caring … to be doing something for people."
He also left money directly to several academic institutions, including $50,000 to the Hilda Mae Snoops Memorial Nursing Fund at the University of Maryland, named for his late longtime companion. He gave $15,000 to the University of Baltimore William Donald Schaefer Center for Public Policy and $5,000 to his alma mater, the Baltimore City College Alumni Association.
Schaefer left $10,000 each to his second cousin, Verna Hepburn of Rosedale, and his cousin Geraldine Fowler, who lives in Florida. Both were surprised to be included.
Fowler said she and Schaefer were born about a year apart and grew up like brother and sister. She didn't see him much during his busy political years, but resumed talking regularly when they both retired, she said. Last year, Schaefer threw her a 90th birthday party at Charlestown.
"He was hoping he would reach 90, this coming November," she said.
Marty Resnick of Martin's Caterers said he met Schaefer when the politician booked the company for his first fundraiser at the Baltimore Civic Center when he was running for mayor. Schaefer left Resnick $1,000 "as a token of my affection," according to the will.
"I am so touched by what he did," said Resnick, who plans to donate the money to wounded war veterans. "I can hardly talk right now. … It's so touching and meaningful for me that he would think of me in his will."
Former Chestertown Mayor Elmer Horsey, who met Schaefer when they were both mayors, talked to Schaefer by phone about once a week and considered him a good friend. But Horsey wasn't expecting to receive $5,000 in Schaefer's will. "I didn't know a thing about it."
Willard Bankert Sr. served as Schaefer's driver and bodyguard for 13 years after he left the governor's mansion. He remembered how generous Schaefer was when panhandlers would approach him on the streets of Baltimore. He also recalled how Schaefer threw a celebratory dinner at Dalesio's in Little Italy when Bankert's son graduated from the Baltimore County Police Academy. And now, Schaefer has left him $2,500.
"I think I had the opportunity to see a side of Governor Schaefer that most people never got to see," Bankert said, "his tender side."
Baltimore Sun reporter Liz Bowie contributed to this article.
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