Daniel D. Schaeffer, 28, artist, specialist in computers, graphics

April 12, 2001|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Daniel Dickinson Schaeffer, who learned to operate a computer, draw and paint despite having limited use of his hands, died of complications from a degenerative muscular disease Monday at his Westminster home. He was 28.

When he was 3, Mr. Schaeffer was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy that sapped his strength and left him with limited use of his arms. Since 1984, he had gotten around by using a motorized wheelchair.

Nonetheless, he sought to live as normal and productive a life as possible.

"I just want to be like everyone else ... I tell [other muscular dystrophy patients] to stay busy and get involved in activities. There is a lot they can still do, and I tell them what I have been able to do, not what I can't do," Mr. Schaeffer told The Sun in a 1995 interview.

At Carroll Hospice, he was employed as a computer and graphics specialist. He formatted Rainbows, a bereavement newsletter, helped arrange the hospice's annual memorial service and helped with fund raising.

He also volunteered one day a week at the hospice.

"He was a very integral part of our organization and also worked at Camp TR, a bereavement camp for children, where he was a counselor and buddy," said Debbie Zepp, Carroll Hospice volunteer coordinator.

"Danny was an amazing guy. He was a quiet and very humble man, and even though imprisoned by a wheelchair, he never let it show. He had a wonderful countenance about him," she said.

Even though his health declined during the past year, Mr. Schaeffer continued working.

News of Mr. Schaeffer's death stunned and saddened colleagues, said Ms. Zepp.

"We have a spiritual aspect here, and we know that Danny is out of his wheelchair and dancing in heaven," she said.

Despite a diagnosis that he would not survive through his teen-age years, the Westminster native beat the odds.

With his mother's encouragement, Mr. Schaeffer began to realize his artistic talents as a child. When he was 7, he won an Atari Game System from Kellogg's for a drawing he submitted of the Rice Krispies characters, Snap, Crackle and Pop. He later attended the state Department of Education's gifted and talented program and took summer art courses at Goucher College.

A 1990 graduate of Vocational and Technical Center in Westminster, he graduated magna cum laude from Western Maryland College, receiving a bachelor's degree in art and art history with a minor in journalism in 1995.

He was the author of a travelogue, "The Road to Gettysburg," a senior-year research project for the Carroll County Office of Tourism. He designed Westminster's logo, which is on flags flown at City Hall.

Dr. Thomas O. Crawford, a pediatric neurologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital who had been Mr. Schaeffer's physician since 1988, said, "He's a real hero. He was an extraordinary kid, and because he had a quiet manner, he did what he could do and didn't make a ruckus about what he couldn't do."

"I'm amazed myself looking back on his life," said his mother, Carol Dickinson Hammond of Westminster.

Steven Schaeffer was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy at the same time as his brother and died in 1993.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Pritts Funeral Home, 412 Washington Road, Westminster.

Other survivors include his father, David M. Schaeffer of Clyde, N.C.; his grandparents, F. David and Bobbye Schaeffer of Westminster, and Robert E. and Dorothy Dickinson of Wyckoff, N.J.; his stepfather, James Hammond of Westminster; and step-grandparents, Charles and Jeanne Hammond of Glyndon.

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