Crane at Baltimore port honors Hilda Mae Snoops

Honor: The late friend of the former governor is remembered as `a big proponent' of the harbor facility.

September 09, 2005|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,SUN STAFF

Famous Marylanders have had streets, airports and libraries named for them.

Hilda Mae Snoops has a ... crane.

The port of Baltimore posthumously named one of the machines that lifts big metal containers on and off ships for Snoops during a dockside ceremony yesterday. The naming of the crane for the late, longtime companion of Comptroller and former Gov. William Donald Schaefer drew several state officials, including Schaefer, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and First Lady Kendel Ehrlich.

"Hilda Mae was a big proponent of the port," Schaefer said after climbing onto a pier in the late-morning sunshine from the state tour boat where the ceremony was held. "The port just did it. They called and told me. ... I think it's a great idea and a great tribute."

FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's Business section about a crane named for Hilda Mae Snoops misstated the number of her grandchildren. There are nine, and one great-grandchild.

And did Ehrlich - a Republican whom the Democrat Schaefer has often served as an ally - have anything to do with bestowing on Snoops literally one of the state's highest honors (the cranes are 170 feet tall)?

"He didn't hurt it," Schaefer said. "I can tell you that."

Many of the nation's largest ports assign numbers, not names, to their cranes. But the Baltimore port years ago began what has become a tradition. There are now five cranes named, all for women. Others honorees are former congresswoman and port consultant Helen Delich Bentley, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, port Deputy Executive Director M. Kathleen Broadwater and former state treasurer Lucille Maurer.

Bentley, Mikulski and Maurer got their names painted on the sides of cranes in 1990, at the opening of Seagirt Marine Terminal, home to the machines. Broadwater, who served as interim port director briefly this year, was surprised by the honor this spring at a news conference to introduce the new port director, F. Brooks Royster III.

Aaron M. Ellis, spokesman for the American Association of Port Authorities, a trade group, said he had not heard of another port naming cranes, or other equipment, but after snickering a bit, he opined that if cranes are to be named, they should be named for women.

Although billed as a media event, the naming ceremony ended up being held largely out of the media's eye. The Snoops party aboard the Mary Lynn could hold only 27 people. Invited newspaper reporters apparently put the vessel over capacity and were asked to decamp to a spot on the pier mostly out of earshot of the speeches on a malfunctioning microphone.

The christening of the crane also was done from the boat, with a faux champage bottle tied to a rope. When Schaefer let it go, the bottle swung into the pier, not the crane.

The Snoops family was touched, nonetheless. Larry Snoops, Hilda Mae's son, said the crane-naming would preserve her legacy. A retired nurse, divorced mother of three, grandmother of nine and one great-grandchild, Snoops was among the bachelor Schaefer's closest friends for 30 years. She was described in her 1999 obituary in The Sun as one of the few people with whom he felt completely comfortable.

It was the second time Snoops has been accorded a crane-naming honor. One was named for her in South Locust Point in 1987, just after Schaefer became governor. It was decommissioned and sold and, port officials said, is in Algeria.

The governor said it was fitting that Snoops get a replacement crane because of her relationship to Schaefer and Bentley, two of the port's strongest advocates. This is the second time Ehrlich has pleased Schaefer by preserving the memory of Snoops, who died at 74 in 1999.

In 2003, Ehrlich famously returned water to the fountain that had been officially dedicated to Snoops in 1990. Schaefer had fumed when it was cut off during the administration of Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who claimed he was trying to save water during a drought.

Port officials said three cranes remain without names.

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