Outside the small church in Southern Maryland, generations of politicians greeted each other as if they were at a reunion. Old friends embraced and reminisced under the tents. There were a few tears but more storytelling and laughter.
Louis L. Goldstein would have loved it.
At Trinity United Methodist Church in Prince Frederick, as many as 1,000 people gathered yesterday for the funeral of the man who was Maryland's comptroller for almost 40 years. The 85-year-old Goldstein died Friday of a heart attack, just as he began campaigning for an 11th term.
The list of honorary pallbearers read like a Who's Who of Maryland politics. Both U.S. senators were there, as were the leaders of the state legislature, the mayor of Baltimore and the Calvert County commissioners. Gov. Parris N. Glendening was there, as were his three surviving predecessors, and Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann, who wants Glendening's job.
In the church full of prominent Democrats were those aspiring to succeed Goldstein: Baltimore Comptroller Joan M. Pratt, former Gov. William Donald Schaefer and, next to him in a pew, Michael D. Barnes, the former congressman appointed by Glendening to finish Goldstein's term.
But the politicians put aside their personal ambitions for a few hours to join hundreds of ordinary people in paying tribute to the tax collector everyone loved.
People such as Evelyn Black, 85, who grew up with Goldstein in Prince Frederick and said simply, "I'm going to miss him." Or Theodore Woodward, 84, the former head of medicine at the University of Maryland who had penned a recent note advising Goldstein to "stay well -- slow down some." Or Jay Marchant, who served as a Washington College trustee with Goldstein and marveled at the crowd: "Louis would have enjoyed it. Look at all these hands to shake."
They told now-familiar campaign stories, of Goldstein wearing out shoes, shaking a mannequin's hand and waving at empty barns. He was first elected a state legislator in 1938, after he walked across Calvert County to knock on every farmhouse door, and he held state office thereafter except for four years as a Marine during World War II.
They spoke of Goldstein as the strict financial guardian, who kept the state's bond ratings high and made shrewd investments. And they remembered him as a patriot, who attended every Democratic National Convention since 1940 except one, and a country gentleman, who hunted and fished, and who died after partaking of his favorite pastime, his daily swim.
"He never forgot his roots," said Jessie Jo Bowen, the former Calvert County treasurer and a close friend of Goldstein. "And he never knew a stranger. That's what endeared him to the citizens of the state."
The 90-minute service befitted Goldstein with its patriotic and sentimental touches.
Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes read letters of condolence from President Clinton and Vice President Gore. The more than 300 people inside the church -- and 700 listening by loudspeaker outside -- sang "America the Beautiful" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic."
"He was so much a part of our state and our lives," Sarbanes said, "I think we all expected him to live forever."
Retired Calvert County Circuit Judge Perry Bowen drew chuckles from the congregation as he told how Goldstein once spread out a shipped-in crab feast on a hotel floor at a Democratic convention.
Afterward, the mourners fell silent as they followed the flag-draped casket up a steep hill from the church into the Wesley Cemetery, where Goldstein was buried next to Hazel, his wife of 49 years. The pastor offered as a final blessing the words that were Goldstein's trademark: "May God love and bless y'all real good."
Pub Date: 7/08/98