The public's servant

December 14, 2003

TOMORROW, they will bury one of Baltimore's finest. He was neither powerful nor a politician, not a famous personality or patron of the poor. He was a public servant, a hard-working, honest man whose devotion to his family and his god was matched only by his devotion to this city and the municipal leaders under whom he served.

Most Baltimoreans didn't know Richard A. Lidinsky. But they benefited from his service to the city of his birth. Except for a stint in the Navy, Mr. Lidinsky worked almost nowhere else. He was unfailingly polite, always a gentleman who tipped his hat when passing a woman he knew on the street. Yet it was his integrity, professionalism and humanity that made him a standout.

When he retired from City Hall in 1991, Mr. Lidinsky had been in the city's employ 43 years. He served under eight mayors -- count 'em -- eight. Most of Mr. Lidinsky's tenure was spent in the comptroller's office as the deputy.

In that capacity, he served as the secretary to the Board of Estimates, the city body that approves all municipal spending and contracts. He insisted on personally putting his signature on those often mundane but essential documents -- if he used a stamp, Mr. Lidinsky reasoned, someone else could use it, too.

Though he worked for some of the city's most prominent politicians, Mr. Lidinsky always rejected the suggestion that he run for office. "I serve the city. I serve the people," he'd respectfully reply.

His was the classic Baltimore story: The son and grandson of Czech immigrants, he was born and raised in East Baltimore. His love affair with the city went beyond the corridors of City Hall. He and his wife, Angela, ate at Haussner's on special occasions. His tie bar bore the city seal. When the tour boats ran up and down the bay, Dick Lidinsky would be on board. On weekends, he would shop for his favorite cut of meat, cheese or chocolate at the Northeast Market.

When he moved north, it was only to Melrose Avenue -- but he made sure he was east of Charles Street. When his youngest son tried to convince him to move to the county in his retirement, Mr. Lidinsky refused, saying, "I'll never leave the city."

Tomorrow, after 83 years on earth, Richard A. Lidinsky will be laid to rest at Holy Redeemer Cemetery, in his beloved Baltimore, the city that he served.

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