A visionary's 'enthusiasm for life' Baltimore, Columbia services remember James W. Rouse

April 13, 1996|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

Baltimore and Columbia bid farewell to world-renowned developer and social architect James Wilson Rouse in separate services yesterday, each claiming the visionary planner as a native son.

Both services stressed the inner greatness of the Eastern Shore native who died at 81 at his Columbia home Tuesday morning of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

In Baltimore, more than 1,100 mourners -- including Gov. Parris N. Glendening -- filled the pews at Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church for his funeral.

The Baltimore service was essentially a family affair, with his sons and a longtime friend and mentor, the Rev. N. Gordon Cosby, sharing remembrances.

The Columbia memorial, held in the open-air Merriweather Post Pavilion, was the public's tribute, attended by about 2,500 people. Former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, former Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr. and Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke read Scriptures, and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski read from one of Mr. Rouse's speeches.

Ms. Mikulski joked that Mr. Rouse -- who had planned parts of the Columbia service -- had scripted the parts for the politicians but allowed his friends and his son, Ted, to speak their own lines.

Also speaking at the Columbia service, U.S. Housing Secretary Henry G. Cisneros said that as he watched President Clinton give Mr. Rouse a Medal of Freedom last year, he felt that he was "in the presence of one of the greatest Americans in our time" and that Mr. Rouse has left the nation "as large a legacy as a

person can."

Said Norman Yancey, a resident of Baltimore's Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood, where Mr. Rouse sought to generate jobs, rehabilitate housing and solve myriad urban ills: "He made each of us feel like the most important person in the world. I thank God for his ability not just to build buildings, but to build people. That's what transforms us."

In the Baltimore service, Mr. Cosby, a longtime friend and mentor, told mourners that although Mr. Rouse -- referred to as "Jim" at both services -- had wanted his funeral to be "a time of joy," his death is an "irreparable loss."

Like Mr. Rouse's sons, who also addressed the congregation, Mr. Cosby sought to share the "inner man" he knew for almost 40 years.

It was at Mr. Cosby's Church of the Savior in Washington that Mr. Rouse conceived the idea for the Enterprise Foundation, a nonprofit organization that he founded to build affordable housing for the poor.

"I was struck by Jim's hunger for God -- to be obedient to God," Mr. Cosby said. "He believed the devastating effects of poverty could be eliminated because God willed it."

In his endeavors as a developer, Mr. Rouse saw himself as "sharing and participating in what God is doing," Mr. Cosby said.

When plans for the new city of Columbia bogged down, Mr. Rouse called his staff together and told them, "I just want to build a city where it is easier for people to love one another. Please help me," Mr. Cosby said.

One of Mr. Rouse's sons, James Rouse, fought back tears as he told of a dream he had 25 years ago about his father's death.

In the dream, a young James was on a train with his cousins and one of them asked what he would remember most about his father. "It was of him coming into my room and waking me up each morning -- so joyous," James Rouse said.

"That for me was the essence of my father," he said, "his joyous enthusiasm for life."

Between the services, Mr. Rouse was buried in a private ceremony at Columbia Memorial Park cemetery on Route 108 in Columbia.

Pub Date: 4/13/96

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