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Schaefer Funeral Procession Winds Its Way From Annapolis To Baltimore
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April 25, 2011
The crowds began lining up at the State House more than an hour before Schaefer’s motorcade was due to arrive. Juanita Cage Lewis, who works in the state Department of Housing and Community Development, was first in line. She said Schaefer made sure she got home to Cumberland to see her ailing mother during a blizzard in March 1994. Her mother passed away a year later.
“Guess who I got a note from? Governor Schaefer. And I’ll never forget it. That’s why I’m the first one in line. My family doesn’t live in Annapolis; fortunately I live here. I took the day off so I could come and pay my respects because he helped me out.”
With her was Tersheia Venerable, who took time off from her job at the Department of Transportation.
“Well, he was a politician who actually cared for the people. He actually did his job striving to make things better, and he was not afraid to speak his mind and I just admired him as a man and as a businessman.”
And even though the former governor may have riled some folks when he spoke his mind, others, like Elsie Watts, a retired state employee, were not offended.
“Schaefer was one of my good people. I admired him as a politician and as a politician. And as a female, Schaefer was straightforward. I’m straightforward.”
Farther back in line was Jim Oberhaus, who had driven in from Frostburg. He said Schaefer had such a positive impact on Western Maryland that he just had to be here.
“Well, he was involved in Rocky Gap and he was involved in getting Interstate 68 through our area and the scenic railroad, Frostburg State University and on and on and on.”
Schaefer’s motorcade, led by a phalanx of police motor cycles, was met by Governor Martin O’Malley and Col. Sean Lee, the Maryland National Guard chaplain. They led pall bearers (from Maryland Air and Army National Guard units past police and fire department color guards from around the state into the State House rotunda.
Schaefer was only the second public official whose body lay in state here—the first was former Comptroller Louis Goldstein.
The flag draped casket lay beneath a re-creation of the John Shaw flag, which flew over the State House when the Continental Congress met there in 1783, as several hundred filed by. Some kept their distance. Others stopped to touch the casket. One woman stopped, crossed herself and prayed.
Three wreaths of flowers were positioned on easels near the casket: two yellow and red draped with Maryland flag bunting and one with white lilies and a small banner that read, “He cared.” Nearby was the portrait of Schaefer that normally hangs in the governor’s reception room on the second floor of the building.
Lainey Lebow-Sachs, one of the former governor’s closest friends, who was holding his hand when he died, leaned over a balcony railing on the second floor to watch those who had come to pay their respects.
“This whole thing is so surreal and so incredibly sad—oh God, there’s Louise. I visited him last night and the casket was open. I just wanted to shake him and say, get up out of there. But, I’m being ridiculous, of course.”
She said the world will never see another William Donald Schaefer.
I’m Joel McCord, in Annapolis.
And this is Sarah Richards reporting from downtown Baltimore, where cannons fired by the USS Constellation fittingly captured the depth and impact Donald Schaefer had on Baltimore City. It was a final tour of the city that Donald Schaefer loved. And it was a public farewell to the Democratic politician who led Baltimore for 16 years. It started at Schaefer’s childhood home near Gwynns Falls Park in West Baltimore. Then, the procession snaked across town to Lexington Market… and on to the Inner Harbor and the National Aquarium, Schaefer’s masterpiece.
First to arrive were 19 motorcycles with flashing red and blue lights. They were driven by members of the Baltimore City Police, the Baltimore County Police, and State of Maryland troopers.
Shortly after, nearly a dozen black sedans and SUVs containing Schaefer’s former staff and friends slowly pulled into the circular driveway in front of the aquarium. Dozens of volunteers and staff stood along the outer edges of the driveway. Then, they began to applause.
Most wore the aquarium’s uniform: blue golf shirts and beige pants. But they also wore replica hats of the one worn by Schaefer way back in 1981, when he famously took a dip in the seal tank because the aquarium did not open on schedule. Some of the aquarium employees held up a banner. It read, ‘We tip our hats to you, William Donald Schaefer.’ Dave Pittenger is the executive director of the aquarium. Wearing a blue tie given to him by Schaefer, he said the aquarium would never have happened without him. He says there’s a reason there’s been a lot of nostalgia in the air the past few days.
“Well, I mean he was a totally unusual person in being a really 110-percent public servant. I mean this was his life. He did things for Baltimore that… made a commitment that…really, it’s hard to think of anybody else that has or really could. I mean, it’s pretty amazing. ”
Pittenger went on to give the procession a tray of purple, pink and white violets. Perched amongst them was a blow-up duck—similar to the one toted by Schaefer on the day he swam in the seal tank. Standing near-by was forty-three-year-old Joe Warnecker. He came in from Essex with his wife and family to pay his respects. He grew up in Baltimore and says Schaefer will be missed.
“I think he’s irreplaceable. They ain’t never going to replace him. He’s a legend. The things that he did. Like coming out of the army as a lieutenant or commander of some kind. Then he was a lawyer. Was the mayor of Baltimore at least 2 or 3 terms. And comptroller. And the governor. I can’t imagine anybody ever repeating his footsteps. Pretty remarkable.”
The public viewing of Schaefer’s casket at City Hall ends tonight at nine o’clock. The funeral is scheduled for Wednesday morning at 11 o’clock at Old St. Paul’s Church on Charles Street.
With Joel McCord in Annapolis, I’m Sarah Richards reporting for 88.1, WYPR.
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