Marylanders at City Hall recall Schaefer

The body of William Donald Schaefer lay in state Tuesday in the marble rotunda of City Hall, and a line curled around the historic building as people waited to pay their respects. Standing in the bright April sun, the mourners — old and young, rich and poor, black and white — clutched photos of Schaefer and described how he shaped their lives and their city. Here are some of their stories:

Deborah Bailey-Kpazahi

It's been more than three decades, but Deborah Bailey-Kpazahi still hums the jingle when she sees a street corner trash basket: "Trash Ball, it's a neat game everybody can win. Let me show you how to play."

The campaign, which then-Mayor Schaefer launched in 1974, inspired Bailey-Kpazahi and her neighbors in West Baltimore to make a game out of keeping the things tidy.

Schaefer's greatest gift to the city, said Bailey-Kpazahi, 55, was his ability to inspire residents to care.

"We all picked up trash. We wanted to keep our city clean," said Bailey-Kpazahi. "We felt a part of our city."

"When you pick up some trash, pretend it's a ball. When you throw it in the bucket, you play the Trash Ball," sang the retired member of the military, who had traveled from her Rosedale home.

"In my opinion, no other politician could ever match up to him," she said. "His love was for this city — every race, creed and color."

Anthony Greene

On a Sunday in 1977, Anthony Greene, a senior at Walbrook High School walked up to Schaefer after services at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Would the mayor like to buy some prom raffle tickets, he asked?

Schaefer fished out some money from his wallet and asked the young man about his aspirations, Greene, now 52, recalled as he waited to enter City Hall to view Schaefer's casket.

A few weeks later, as Greene was straightening his cap and gown for his graduation ceremony, a limousine pulled up in front of his West Baltimore home.

Schaefer had made a note of Greene's graduation date and dispatched an aide with a gift: a photo album for the aspiring journalist to preserve his clips.

"He touched every life in this city in some kind of way," said Greene, who now works with the Mayor's Office of Employment Development. "He made everyone feel like they were special."

Oblate Sisters of Providence

The Oblate Sisters of Providence, a historically African-American order of Roman Catholic nuns founded in Baltimore, had a friend in Schaefer.

As mayor, Schaefer steered money toward the St. Frances Academy school and convent for much-needed repairs, recalled Sister Mary Alexis Fisher, the order's Superior General.

"He was very interested in the neighborhood," said Sister Mary Alexis. "He used to give money to buy toys for the children."

Velma Horton

After Schaefer heard about a cheerleading group at the old Murphy Homes complex, Velma Horton's daughter, who was about 13 at the time, and several of her friends were invited to perform at City Hall.

The mayor was so impressed with the girls that he asked them to cheer at several other events, Horton recalled.

"Everytime he had a parade, he would invite them to cheer," said Horton, 59, who now lives in West Baltimore.

Years later, when Horton's daughter became a Baltimore police officer, Schaefer stepped in again. The mayor bought all the members of the police academy class their first uniforms, she recalled.

Charles W. Mackey

Charles W. Mackey first knew Schaefer as his city councilman. But it was when Schaefer was governor that the Rognell Heights resident tapped him for aid.

Mackey's nephew was struck and killed while helping a woman change a tire in the late 1980s. Mackey thought the young man should receive some recognition for his generosity, and called then-Gov. Schaefer's office to request a posthumous citation.

To his surprise, Schaefer himself returned the call, Mackey, 74, a court clerk, recalled.

"He's done a lot for me," said Mackey. "He was a classy guy."

Rita Raymond

The year was 1976, and Rita Raymond and her classmates in elementary school in Hampden had a special guest for their graduation ceremony — Mayor Schaefer.

Afterward, Schaefer didn't speed off to City Hall, but lingered to play with the children, one example of the delight he took in spending time with the city's residents.

"Most politicians, they're gone as soon as they get off the stage," said Raymond, now 47. "He went and played catch with the guys."

"He was an all-around good guy," said Raymond, a nurse's aide who now lives in Woodlawn.



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