Bells tolled from Zion Lutheran Church and a crowd of more than 100 residents, damp with the unseasonable heat, grew silent.
A gleaming hearse pulled up in front of Baltimore's City Hall, bringing the body of William Donald Schaefer to the building from which he guided the city for more than 30 years, as a city councilman, council president and mayor.
After lying in state in the State House in Annapolis and passing by some of the late leader's most beloved spots in the city, Schaefer's body was brought to City Hall on Monday evening, where he will continue to lie in state Tuesday.
In clipped, precise movements, members of a Maryland National Guard honor guard lifted the casket, draped with an American flag, and carried it into the marble atrium of City Hall.
A small crowd of current and former city and state leaders was gathered inside the atrium, including Sen. Barbara A.Mikulski, former Sen. Paul Sarbanes and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, in a brief speech, called Schaefer "one of Baltimore's greatest citizens."
"His deep emotions and passion for Baltimore drove him to accomplish greatness not for himself, but for the city," Rawlings-Blake said.
Schaefer's spirit and aspirations for the city would live on, she said, as she stood next to a portrait of Schaefer standing in front of the West Baltimore rowhouse where he lived for most of his life, the spires of downtown skyscrapers visible in the background.
"Some see a city filled with landmarks, public investments and buildings that William Donald Schaefer made possible," she said. "But Mayor Schaefer saw things differently. He saw a shining city made of people who made the unrealistic become a reality and the impossible become possible."
The people waiting outside City Hall to pay their respects "know that William Donald Schaefer defined the word 'mayor.' He will always be our mayor," she said.
In an invocation, the Rev. Frank M. Reid III, pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, thanked God for Schaefer's work in the city.
"We thank you for how much he loved this city and how much this city loved him," he said.
Rawlings-Blake placed a wreath of yellow roses and black-eyed Susans by the casket as the voices of the Maryland State Boychoir echoed through the atrium with the words of "Bound for the Promised Land," an early American hymn.
City Hall remained open to visitors until 9 p.m. Monday. Members of the Baltimore Police Department honor guard were to stand watch through the evening. The viewing will continue from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. Tuesday.
As she walked into City Hall, Mikulski, a former city councilwoman, recalled her longtime friend.
"He was one of my diner pals. We were diner Democrats," she said. "We never met a calorie we didn't like and a hand we didn't want to shake."
She added, "He had the verve and the vision. We'll never see another William Donald Schaefer."
A line stretched down East Fayette Street east of City Hall as residents and city workers waited to bid Schaefer farewell. Standing about halfway down that line, Baltimore filmmaker John Waters chatted with other residents as he waited to clear security into the building.
"He was always great to me, even when everybody else thought my movies were obscene. He used to say, 'I don't care what they are, just keep making them,' " Waters said, adopting a gruff official's voice.
"I think it was just to keep the name of Baltimore out there," Waters said. "He knew they were playing around the country."
A crowd of hundreds gathered in War Memorial Plaza — pressed between police barricades and the Ravens Marching Band — and recalled personal stories about Schaefer. For some, it was a handshake and a few words exchanged during a campaign season. Others worked in his administration or lived in his neighborhood. All of them described him as an unparalleled and uncommon leader.
Angela Smith, 62, said Schaefer touched her family when he unexpectedly sent her grandmother a birthday card when she turned 100 about a decade ago. "He deserves everything they give him," said Smith, a lifelong Baltimore resident and Johns Hopkins Hospital retiree who said she came to City Hall on Monday to honor him. "Today is his day."
As the band played "America" and Schaefer's casket was removed from the hearse, Nydia Gonzalez snapped a picture with her cellphone. She remembered meeting Schaefer many years ago as the mayor was campaigning for re-election at a farmers' market. He came over to say hello and ask for her vote.
"You don't see politicians anymore that care about their city and their state. And this gentleman, he did," Gonzalez said. "I think he was very good for Baltimore and very good for the state."
Standing at the front of the line to bid Schaefer a final farewell was Dollene Howell, a 54-year-old lifelong Baltimore resident, who said that no matter how powerful Schaefer became, he never came across as unapproachable. "He was such a down-to-earth person — he wasn't untouchable," Howell said. "He would come and sit and eat with you. He didn't just come and stand at events. He interacted with people. "
Inside City Hall, visitors were greeted by a photo showing Schaefer with a stern expression, a twinkle in his eye, his finger raised as if pointing forward.
Gifts and mementos were heaped on a table, including pots of African violets, a model of the Pride of Baltimore, an inflatable Donald Duck from the National Aquarium in Baltimore and a framed sign that said "Schaefer's 'Little Girl' and proud of it."
Robin Rider, 59, of Federal Hill, wearing a puffy black bow tie and a purple top hat, carried a poem titled "Ode to Schaefer" that he had sent to the leader almost 20 years ago.
"Those were happy days for Schaefer," the poem read. "When he carried his accumulations of joy to the public who had awaited them so long."
twitter.com/jfritzeCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun