Usually, they call him The Dean of the Baltimore City Council. Last night they called him wonderful, beneficent and a trailblazer. By next week, they will call him a memory. Third District Councilman Martin E. "Mike" Curran, after serving 18 years and nine months on the City Council, officially called it quits at his retirement party last night.
Dozens of politicians from federal, state and city levels and friends shoehorned themselves into a small Canton cafe to wish The Dean a hearty farewell. The mayor declared yesterday "Mike Curran Day." And his friends chipped in to send him to Ireland -- a trip he's wanted to take for years.
"I wanted to get out and smell the roses before they put them on top of me," Mr. Curran said.
The councilman, with the trademark gray streak in his hair and wearing a white rose in his lapel, lapped up praise from colleagues who remembered him as a gruff-talking, high-spirited, often indelicate man with a good heart.
His cardiologist, Dr. Levi Watkins, attested to that. "When you've been in a man's chest twice, you know a man's heart," Dr. Watkins joked.
Mr. Curran's departure Dec. 4 doesn't end the five decades of Currans who have served on the City Council. His brother, Robert, was just elected. Their father, J. Joseph, was elected in 1953 and retired in 1977.
The councilman's last official act was ushering through a hefty pay raise next year for the 19-member council, the mayor and the comptroller.
But he will be remembered through the years as the councilman who rode in the cab of the snowplow and directed the driver to the "good spots, hot spots and snowy hills" of his Northeast district for 10 years. He quit after Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke in 1988 forced him to stop, saying the public could see it as potentially unfair.
He also was the councilman who, along with five others, marched out of council chambers in March to stop a vote on a trash-disposal plan.
He brought council meetings into the homes of Baltimoreans on cable television, and fought unsuccessfully against redistricting in 1991.
But what won't be missed about him comes from his fellow 3rd District representative, Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham, who sits next to him in council meetings:
The annoying habit of clearing his throat with an "A-HEM!" each time he speaks into the microphone.
"That's been driving me crazy for nine years," Mr. Cunningham said.