Joanne A. McQuade, 61, aide who saved Schaefer from would-be assassin

May 11, 2000|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Joanne A. McQuade, a former aide who saved Mayor William Donald Schaefer from a would-be assassin's bullet during a 1976 shooting rampage, died Sunday of breast cancer at Mercy Medical Center. She was 61.

At the time of the shooting, the longtime resident of the city's Hunting Ridge section was a 37-year-old office manager working with Schaefer in temporary rented offices at 26 S. Calvert St. during the renovation of City Hall.

On April 13, 1976, Charles A. Hopkins, owner of an East Baltimore carryout shop, entered the temporary City Hall carrying a .38-caliber revolver in a paper bag and headed for the mayor's seventh-floor office.

Mr. Schaefer, who went on to become governor and now is state comptroller, was in his office eating lunch. Another mayoral aide, Kathleen E. Nolan, confronted the man, who shot her in the neck.

Hearing the gunfire, Mrs. McQuade was the first to reach the wounded aide. Picking up a phone to call a City Hall operator, she felt someone near her.

"Hang up or I'll blow your head off," Hopkins told her.

When he demanded to see the mayor, Mrs. McQuade told him Schaefer was on business in Annapolis.

"Let me help you out of here," she said to him.

"He had a hand on my collar and a gun to my ear. He pushed me along in front of him. We went across the walkway to the other building, where the council offices were. He knew exactly where he was going. He wanted a councilman," Mrs. McQuade told Sun editorial writer C. Fraser Smith, author of "William Donald Schaefer: A Political Biography."

Mrs. McQuade broke free of Hopkins and dashed to safety. When the attack ended, City Councilman Dominic M. Leone was dead and four others were wounded. Police led the mayor to safety.

Councilman J. Joseph Curran Sr. suffered a heart attack during the incident and died within a year.

"She saved my life," Mr. Schaefer said yesterday. "I was in my office. I was eating my lunch when I heard a shot. Hopkins put a gun to Joan's head, and she led him away from my door. She had just had a baby and was a new mother. What she did took a lot of guts. If she hadn't taken him away, he would have killed me."

"The only thing I thought about as I was walking down the hall was my son," Mrs. McQuade told The Sun after the incident. "I said, `Please don't shoot me. I have a 6-month-old son.' "

Joanne Andrews was born in Edmondson Village and graduated from Western High School in 1956. She was a secretary for the Girl Scouts of America before going to work in 1968 as secretary to the City Council.

She later became an aide to Mayor Schaefer, and, after his election as governor, went to Annapolis as an executive assistant. She retired in 1996.

Mrs. McQuade survived the shooting because of her "strong will," said her husband of 44 years, John E. McQuade Jr.

Mrs. McQuade wondered whether she could have done more that tragic day.

"I had a tremendous amount of guilt over Dom's death. Maybe I could have done something," she told Mr. Smith.

"In later years, she was really very closed-mouth about what had happened," said her husband.

Interested in arts and crafts, Mrs. McQuade was a gifted calligrapher who often hand-lettered proclamations, testimonials and invitations for the governor, said her husband. She also collected David Winter porcelain Victorian cottages and displayed them at home.

While at City Hall and later at the State House, Mrs. McQuade was in charge of holiday decorating.

She liked growing flowers, which she dried to create arrangements and wreaths.

She attended St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church, 5976 Old Washington Road, Elkridge, where a memorial Mass will be offered at 9: 30 a.m. May 18.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by a son, Andy McQuade of Cincinnati; and a sister, Doris Dombrowski of Bethany Beach, Del.

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