Line after line, page after page. The names of those who went to an Annapolis funeral chapel to pay their respects to Dr. Aris T. Allen quickly filled the two ledgers outside the room where his body lay.
A seemingly endless and steady stream of people yesterday flowed in and out of the Hicks funeral establishment on Forest Drive.
The 80-year-old physician apparently took his life last Friday afternoon, two days after learning he had cancer.
A private funeral service for Allen was being held today.
The visitors yesterday did not linger. They paused in front of Allen's coffin, which was draped with an American flag and surrounded by bright floral arrangements, bowed their heads, said a prayer and moved on. The mourners were varied.
There were colleagues from the medical profession. Allen had gone from being one of the state capital's first black doctors in the 1940s to the local hospital's chief of staff.
There were those who had worked with him in politics. Allen had served three stints as a state legislator, stretching over four decades. He had just been elected again last fall to the House of Delegates. He had chaired the Maryland Republican Party in 1977 and had run unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor the following year.
Mostly, however, there were people like Veronica Forrester, 30, who had been a patient of Allen's since she was "in the womb," she said.
"He was a very sweet person," Forrester said. "I just saw him last Tuesday. He was in his car and I was in mine and he smiled at me. His smile, it was everything. No matter how you felt, that smile would just make you happy. I just can't believe he's gone."
Last Friday, Allen's body was discovered by Anne Arundel County police in a rented car in the parking lot of the Holy Temple Church of God International on Bestgate Road. Police said he apparently shot himself in the head with a shotgun.
Two days earlier, Allen had learned he had terminal prostate cancer.
Two suicide notes were found in the rental car. They contained farewell messages to his family and instructions for his funeral.
Allen also mailed his request for a successor in the House to several members of the county's Republican Central Committee. Those notes arrived the day after his death.
Allen, who represented District 30, recommended his former campaign treasurer, Dallas Evans, as his political successor. Both Evans and members of the central committee have limited their comments on a successor until tomorrow. The panel has a month to select a nominee, whose name will be forwarded to the governor.
Those who had gone to the funeral establishment to pay their respects to Allen expressed shock and sadness.
"I'm still in shock," Forrester said. "When my mother called to tell me what had happened, I said, 'No, not Dr. Allen.' But you never know what's going on inside a person. Maybe he felt this was the best way for him."
Linda Bradford said Allen was physician to her four children. Her eldest child is now 32.
"I used to take them down to the clinic and he would look after them," Bradford said. "We're not rich people, but he would always make time for us. He made time for everybody. That's just the way he was."
Forrester looked over a four-page obituary that chronicled Allen's accomplishments and his life.
"You want to shed a tear, but you can't," Forrester said. "If you knew him, then you know he lived his life. He believed in himself.
"I'm going to remember him as he was," she said. "And I'm going to live his dream. Things haven't always worked out for me the way I wanted them to, but I'm going to do like he said and believe in myself."