A Routine Murder

September 26, 1993|By JERRY BEMBRY | JERRY BEMBRY,Jerry Bembry is a sportswriter for The Baltimore Sun.

Theirs was a union that began with an introduction in a hospital waiting room and resulted in the exchanging of wedding vows on May 15. As the voices of Roberta Flack and Peabo Bryson flowed through the speakers that day with the ballad "Tonight, I Celebrate My Love For You," Waverly Paige and the former Beverly Singletary lovingly embraced as they danced for the first time as newlyweds.

"That's what we had planned on doing, celebrating our love for one another," Mrs. Paige said. "We had planned on celebrating that love for a long time."

The newness of their celebration was still there when Mrs. Paige was awakened in the early morning of Aug. 31. "Why is he not here?" she said to herself as she raced downstairs to answer the pounding at the door. She expected to find her husband. Instead she found a detective.

"I asked 'What's wrong?' " Mrs. Paige said, her voice dropping. "He asked me to sit down, and I said I didn't want to sit down. Then he told me that Waverly had been shot and killed in his cab."

When the detective told Beverly Paige that her husband was dead she ran -- literally doing laps in her living room as she cried in disbelief.

Now she's running again, getting ready to move out of the house where she and her husband had developed a bond that was tragically severed by a single blast from a shotgun.

"I'm still not dealing with it," Mrs. Paige said, tears rolling down her cheeks. "I just walk around this house and I cry. It seems like everyplace I go in this house I can see him.

"Here it is, after 20-something years of being dissatisfied, that I finally found somebody that made me happy -- somebody who was concerned about my welfare even before he was concerned about his," she added. "He made me feel like a queen, he always put me on a pedestal.

"And now he's gone."

It seems there isn't a month that goes by without somebody in family calling from New York with the latest bad news. Recently, there was Darryl, a neighbor from upstairs, who was shot on a street corner; before that there was Jeff, my basketball-playing partner from around the corner, whose life ended in a blaze of gunfire.

But I found at an early age that when appalling crimes occur in some neighborhoods, it really doesn't matter. I can remember watching, when I was about 10, a man fire a rifle off a rooftop and wound six people, including one of my friends. When I glanced through the newspapers the next day the story was amazingly ignored by the two tabloids; the New York Times supplied a scant few paragraphs.

When a James Jordan dies, there's an increased call to ban the sale of firearms. It's the same thing with the recent deaths of two foreign tourists in Florida, shootings that caused an international outrage. And when a woman is raped in the Guilford section of Baltimore, the incident gets widespread media coverage.

But what about the Waverly Paiges in this country -- just when do we start caring about them?

When Mr. Paige died, his wife lost a loving husband and his daughters lost a caring father.

Waverly Paige felt he and his wife were destined to be. When the two went to pick up their marriage license they discovered that both had been divorced from their previous spouses on the same day: July 5, 1974.

His life pleasures were simple: He enjoyed sports, bus trips to Atlantic City and his family. After they married, the Paiges were looking forward to moving away from their Northwest Baltimore home -- where it's a surprise when gunshots are not heard -- to a new home in a neighborhood in Northeast Baltimore that they chose for its safety, an area called Beverly Hills.

"We were just checking with a Realtor and we were planning to buy a house in April," Mrs. Paige said. "I said, 'Thank goodness, we are finally going to get off of Pimlico Road.' " Mr. Paige never got the opportunity to get off Pimlico Road. On a night when he was working the job that he loved -- driving for the GI Veterans Cab company -- he was gunned down in an apparent robbery attempt. Another neighborhood resident was gone, and another household was shattered.

"When they killed him, they just might as well have killed me," Mrs. Paige said, crying. "When I saw him in the casket I told him to come home, that I loved him and I was a nurse and I could make it better.

"But deep down, I knew I couldn't," she added. "He was gone. And I just thought to myself, 'Why do they take the good people?' "

For days Mrs. Paige tried to escape the memories. She boxed all his shirts and his toiletries that were sitting on the dresser. But the reminders were too much to escape.

"It seems like I can smell him, no matter where I go," she said. "I lay in the bed at night. I can't stop myself from rubbing my hand across his side of the bed all night. I sit in the tub and can feel him washing my back. When I'm in the kitchen cooking, I can here him saying 'Get out of the kitchen; I'll cook.' "

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