Touching home: one final lap around Baltimore

Marylanders — hands on their hearts, crisply saluting or wiping away tears — lined streets and gathered at landmarks to bid personal farewells to William Donald Schaefer Monday afternoon, as the former mayor and governor was taken on one final trip by motorcade through his beloved Baltimore.

"His heart was in the city, and I wanted to say goodbye," said Bronwyn Mayden, who watched from Lexington Market, near her office at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, where she is an assistant dean.

It was an oft-repeated sentiment along the 14-mile course that served as a partial rewinding of Schaefer's life, one largely lived within the boundaries of a city that bears the legacy of his terms in office.

For two hours, the motorcade traveled to some of the spots nearest and dearest to his heart, from his childhood home in West Baltimore to the Inner Harbor, from Camden Yards to Corned Beef Row, from Federal Hill to Little Italy. Along the way, he would be feted by music — by players from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to those from the Baltimore Colts turned Baltimore Ravens Marching Band — and heralded with signs, some handmade with messages of gratitude, others old campaign posters, yellowed and faded.

Most touching to the former aides and friends who had choreographed the tour, though, were not the landmarks that he had a hand in building, but the people who gathered along the motorcade route or waited at the stops. Some were fellow politicians he had worked or battled with, some were advocates who represented neighborhoods or causes, most were simply Baltimoreans who came out for one final show of support.

"It was all the people he loved and who loved him," said Lainy LeBow-Sachs, Schaefer's longtime aide, who received multiple flowers and tributes on his behalf. "And that's what he was all about — people, people, people."

The day began in Annapolis, with Schaefer lying in state at the State House for several hours. Then the motorcade, led by motorcycle police and carrying some of Schaefer's closest friends, made its first stop at his childhood home, 620 Edgewood St. in West Baltimore, where a Maryland flag was flying from its porch.

There, a warm and welcoming crowd applauded as the cars approached, waved signs and offered up pots of Schaefer's favored African violets — the kind of scene that would be repeated as the group criss-crossed the city.

"Hi, Schaefer!" one woman said brightly as she patted the hearse bearing his flag-draped casket.

It was that kind of personal gesture that warmed Bob Douglas' heart. The former aide watched as people waved and spoke as if Schaefer could see and hear them and, in some cases, even followed his path to multiple stops.

"My memory is going to be the people, calling out to him as we drove by: 'We love you. We'll never forget you,' " he said. "I saw a woman on Rollerblades at four different stops."

Margaret McCloud, 50, who has lived all her life two doors away from the Schaefer home, remembered him as "a good governor and a good man." Her daughter, Shakeya Hawkins, now 21, once knocked on the door of 620 to ask for an autograph, and his security detail let her in.

McCloud would reconnect with him toward the end of his life — she has been a cook for almost 11 years at the Charlestown retirement community where he lived his final years. It's nice, she said, that he returned home one last time.

Even on streets where the motorcade wasn't stopping, Baltimoreans gathered to bow their heads, take cellphone pictures and applaud.

As the motorcade arrived at Lexington Market — which the former mayor is credited with saving from financial ruin — they rang a bell that once was used to mark the market's opening and closing. In more recent years it has been reserved for special occasions. This one qualified.

"We'll ring it vigorously in honor of a man larger than life," said Bill Devine, who with his wife, Nancy Faidley, often welcomed Schaefer to their seafood counters.

From there, the vehicles headed to the Washington Monument, where some of the city's arts community welcomed them — a brass quartet of BSO players and museum representatives among them.

"I'm here to show respect, reverence — all the Rs you can think of," said Carol Purcell, chairwoman of the Flower Mart that Schaefer supported. She was wearing the kind of flower-bedecked hat seen during that springtime event, and bearing a sign that announced, "Schaefer 'Little Girl' and Proud of It!"

Passing the School for the Arts, the motorcade made its way to the Basilica of the Assumption, where Bishop Denis J. Madden and several neighborhood priests blessed the casket, praying over it and sprinkling it with holy water.

As some of those gathered touched the hearse bearing Schaefer's casket, the motorcade made its way to the ballpark, where Orioles' representatives presented orange flowers and a big baseball to LeBow-Sachs.

Then it was on to the top of Federal Hill, where a sweeping vista encompassed so much that was associated with Schaefer — the downtown neighborhoods, from the Otterbein to Harbor East and, of course, that tourist-attracting venue just down the way.

"I look down this hill at this place called Harborplace. It should be called Schaeferplace," said Tom Gerber, a 38-year Federal Hill resident.

Finally, it was time to visit Harborplace, perhaps Schaefer's best-known project, and site of his statue. There, as the lowering sun cast a golden glow, its sculptor, Rodney Carroll, joined representatives of downtown and waterfront groups as the Pride of Baltimore fired three volleys from itscannons.

"People said he was bull-headed, but we need guys like that to put you on the map and make sure you stay there," said Curtis McNeil, 59, who was among the approximately 150 people celebrating Schaefer at the harbor.

Round the bend to the National Aquarium, Schaefer's aides were tickled to see more than 50 employees in straw boaters that they tipped in his honor. In their midst was a big cutout of Schaefer in similar headgear, plus the striped old-time bathing suit he wore and rubber ducky he carried when he jumped into the seal pool there, making good on a bet after the aquarium opened later than expected.

"Schaefer really put this city on the map," said Dave Pittenger, the aquarium's executive director, who arrived from Philadelphia in 1979 as it was under construction. "It's just nice to know people recognize the contribution that he made."

The motorcade made a brief extra stop at the World Trade Center after learning that former Rep. Helen Delich Bentley would be there, which she was, weeping and overcome with emotion.

"She loved him," said LeBow-Sachs, who hopped out to embrace Bentley. "She loved the governor so much."

In Little Italy, more than 100 people clumped on Eastern Avenue, in two separate groups, typical of fractious neighborhood politics. Wily pols like former Mayor Thomas J. D'Alesandro III and former Baltimore County Executive Ted Venetoulis managed to spend time with both groups.

The motorcade only had time to stop for one, at Gia's Cafe, the former Iggy's Sandwich King, where Schaefer always ate breakfast on election day.

"I just wanted to see the mayor one last time," said Ted Kluga, an Annapolitan who returned to his old neighborhood for the occasion.

Over at Dalesio's, owner Paul Oliver set up tables of Schaefer memorabilia on the sidewalk of the restaurant where Schaefer spent a lot of time dining, meeting with top campaign aides and, occasionally, greeting customers at the door and answering the phone.

"It was nice of them to wave as they drove by what was unquestionably his favorite restaurant," said Gene Raynor, a former city elections board director and longtime Schaefer friend who owns the Dalesio's building.

At the next stop in Fells Point, the motorcade was greeted by water volleys from a boat just offshore and a boisterous crowd in front of Jimmy's restaurant. Led by U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the group offered up some hip-hip-hoorays and a chorus of, "For he's a jolly good mayor."

Toni Holter said she would often see Schaefer at Jimmy's or Oktoberfest and appreciated how approachable he was. When the neighborhood ladies invited him to tea, she said, he would come.

"That's the kind of person he was," said Holter, who moved to Baltimore in 1977. "I wish we had more politicians like that now."

The kind of diverse group that the motorcade attracted along its route was perhaps most pronounced on Corned Beef Row, as Schaefer proclaimed it in the 1970s, the stretch of Lombard Street where he used to get the tongue sandwiches that he loved. There, representatives of Jewish groups as well as African-Americans who now live in the neighborhood welcomed the entourage with flowers, pictures and a few tears.

"I'm a lot more emotional than I anticipated," said Martha Weiman, president of the Baltimore Jewish Council.

The motorcade made a brief stop at Health Care for the Homeless, where retiring CEO Jeff Singer lauded Schaefer for building the agency into a 150-employee $13.5 million organization. "He was a complicated person and I can't say I would've supported 100 percent of what he did," Singer said, "but his heart for our work was true."

Then it was time for the final stop. Passing public works employees who stood sentry in front of their trucks, and a flag hoisted high in the now darkening sky by two ladder trucks on Holliday Street, the mood turned somber among those accompanying Schaefer on one final trip to City Hall.

On a day that turned into a sentimental journey for Schaefer and those who mourn his passing, he was returned to the seat of city government, where he made such a lasting mark

"This was the best of all," said LeBow-Sachs, who worked in both city and state government with Schaefer. "These were precious days here. He was happiest here. It like he was coming home."

Baltimore Sun reporters Eileen Ambrose, Hanah Cho, John Fritze, Raven L. Hill, Chris Kaltenbach, Erik Maza, Julie Scharper, Peter Schmuck, Michael Sragow, Lorraine Mirabella, Frank D. Roylance and Laura Vozzella contributed to this article.

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