In Annapolis, crowd lines up to pay respects to Schaefer

From late morning to afternoon, images of a man with many hats and faces rolled by on the big TV monitor in the State House main hall: William Donald Schaefer in full white chef's garb, done up as George Washington crossing the Delaware, wearing a cowboy hat, gesturing with a pointed finger and the customary intensity. The people who gathered around had known him close up or from afar as a constant presence in Maryland politics.

A few yards away, Schaefer lay in state in a casket draped with an American flag, guarded one more time by two Maryland state troopers, one stationed at the head and one at the foot of the casket. Wreaths were posted in four corners, one done in pale flowers and pinned with a sign: "He Cared."


The two State House front doors were swung open on a warm, sunny Monday as visitors trickled in one, two and four at a time for four hours. The crowds weren't large, but the people showed up from all over the state and around the block.

"He's always been a very colorful person," said Walter E. League, who walked over in the morning from his office at the Naval Academy, where he works as a technician. He said he met Schaefer for the first time as a graduating senior at Southern High School in Baltimore; there was City Council President Schaefer up on the stage at the Civic Center handing out diplomas.


League stood for a moment in front of the casket, his head bowed, his hands clasped in front of him. Then he stepped back out into the sunshine. He noted that many people say no one could ever quite follow Schaefer's act as mayor.

"We might be able to refer to him as the last lord of Baltimore," said League.

Schaefer surely made a grand entrance in Annapolis, as a motorcade led by 17 motorcycle police in white-and-blue helmets rolled down Rowe Boulevard, swung west of the State House and stopped there, at the foot of the brick stairs.

Six Maryland National Guardsmen in dark uniforms and white gloves stepped to the rear of the hearse and eased the casket out, turning together in a series of crisp moves and marching into the State House, led by Gov. Martin O'Malley. Among those following the casket up the stairs was Schaefer's longtime aide, Lainy Lebow-Sachs.


O'Malley set a wreath down by the casket during a brief ceremony that was attended by an array of present and former public officials -- including former governors Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Parris N. Glendening and Marvin Mandel — but was not open to the public.

O'Malley formally welcomed visitors to the State House, and called Schaefer "a man whose greatness, I believe, was best seen in the passion he had for the people that he served. A man who was always impatient with excuses but had all the time in the world for a citizen who needed help."

Later, Ehrlich called Schaefer "the dominant figure in Maryland politics in the 20th century."

Ehrlich said he'd miss Schaefer, his "nonpartisan" ways and the warm relationship he'd developed with Ehrlich's wife, Kendel. He said the overexposure that comes with 24-hour news coverage means there won't be more politicians speaking their minds like Schaefer.

"He was unfilterable, if that's a word, and loving every minute of it."

It was that unfiltered Schaefer who would refer to members of the Senate Budget and Taxation committee as "meat-axing bastards," recalled Laurence Levitan, former chairman of the panel.

"Once, while we were at a symphony gala, I shook his hand in a receiving line, and when he looked up and saw it was me, he grabbed a napkin and wiped off his hand," he said with a chuckle. "He didn't like that we ever questioned him. But that was our job."

Members of the public started lining up an hour before visiting hours began at 10 a.m. They offered tributes of their own.

Peg McCloskey of Davidsonville, who worked for the legislature for 22 years, said she considered the ceremonies "a wonderful tribute to a man who gave his life to the state of Maryland and the city of Baltimore. ... I think he truly wanted the best for the citizens of Maryland."

Oscar Kidd of Annapolis liked Schaefer's governing style.

"He wasn't pretentious," he said. "He was what he was. He seemed deeply concerned with the welfare of the state, especially Baltimore City."

Kristin Saunders Evans said she got her first job out of college as a part of Schaefer's advance team. She recalled preparing a speech for him that he promptly ripped up on a "Do It Now" bus tour to a plant closing in Western Maryland.

"He said, 'I'm going to speak from the heart today,'" Evans recalled.

The visitors stepped inside and stood at the casket, and many walked back across the white-and-black marble floor to the flat-screen TV monitor to watch video of Schaefer being Schaefer, or George Washington, or a chef. There was even a shot of him standing next to an outhouse, perhaps a moment when he was trying to recover from a particularly inflammatory reference to the Eastern Shore.

No hard feelings, said Gene Robbins, who lives in the Shore community of Greensboro, Caroline County, and who was standing with those clustered around the TV. Robbins said he worked in the mailroom of the comptroller's office when Schaefer was the boss, and remembered him as a genial man who always had a kind word for employees.

Even better, Schaefer agreed eight years ago to appear at Denton Little League's opening day when Robbins was president of the organization.

"We had him in a golf cart watching the parade," said Robbins. "He threw out the first pitch."

If there was any bad feeling left in the air from Schaefer's famously injudicious comment about the Eastern Shore, you would never have known it.

"They were really appreciative of him coming down," said Robbins. "We were lucky to have him."




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