Schaefer to be taken on 'final tour' of city before being laid to rest

Funeral plans under way

April 19, 2011|By Yeganeh June Torbati, The Baltimore Sun

Before he is laid to rest on Wednesday at a suburban cemetery, the body of former Maryland governor and Baltimore mayor William Donald Schaefer will be taken on a grand "final tour" of the iconic city sites he is largely responsible for making reality: the sports stadiums, Harborplace and the National Aquarium.

"There will be some unique Schaefer accents to this," said Michael Golden, Schaefer's former spokesman, who has been involved with planning next week's services. Golden said a final route for the procession could be completed Wednesday.

"It'll give the public an opportunity to pay their respects and honor him at some key locations in the city that he played an important role in, either in developing or rejuvenating or creating," Golden said.

In the days between the time Schaefer first fell seriously ill and his death Monday at the age of 89, a small group of loyal former aides gathered almost daily by conference call to put together a city- and state-wide goodbye befitting his years of service.

Organized by aide Lainy LeBow-Sachs, who once held Schaefer's power of attorney, the group, including former spokesmen Golden and Bob Douglas and former chief of staff Mark Wasserman, decided it would be appropriate for Schaefer to be taken on a procession through Baltimore before lying in state in City Hall.

And in a nod to his 16 years of service in Annapolis as governor and comptroller, Golden said the group agreed that Schaefer's body ought to lie in repose in the State House as well, which is planned for Monday morning.

Golden said the conference calls grew emotional at times, as the former aides realized that Schaefer was likely reaching the end of his life. "We were all almost starting to talk about him in the past sense, which was kind of strange," he said.

But Schaefer's former staff, who were acting in lieu of any remaining family, also realized the importance of deciding a coherent plan for Schaefer's goodbye, the first details of which were released just hours after his death.

"We were all on a mission, and that mission was to develop the most honorable celebration of Governor Schaefer that we could design," Golden said.

Officials from the Maryland Military Department, which is given the special role of organizing services for high-level state officials, is closely involved in the planning. The department's honor guard serves at veterans' funerals at state cemeteries, and is helping organize various agencies such as the city and state police, fire departments and the Baltimore mayor's office.

"It is an honor … for us to have this position to be able to do that for a past governor," said Lt. Col. Charles Kohler, a spokesman.

Golden said that members of the Military Department's honor guard will carry Schaefer's casket. "There would be too many people to choose from and you run the risk of leaving someone off the list," he said. LeBow-Sachs is thus far the only confirmed speaker at the funeral.

In deciding the details of how the three days of services and tributes will unfold, the Military Department relies on existing protocol for the funerals of senior public officials. Those guidelines include how certain honors are rendered upon the deceased, the flying of flags at half-staff and arranging for a funeral artillery firing battery.

Though steeped in tradition and solemnity, the official protocol has been updated and revised over the years and is changed to fit the wishes of each family, Kohler said. "It's not cast in stone," he said. "It's always flexible."

Over the last century, Maryland's public servants have been buried with varying degrees of pomp — with some opting for small, private ceremonies and others for extended public farewells.

When he is laid to rest in Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens, Schaefer will join Spiro T. Agnew, the former Baltimore County executive, Maryland governor and U.S. vice president whose 1996 funeral at the Timonium cemetery included "no ex-presidents, no recognizable Hollywood luminaries" despite his national office, according to a Sun report at the time.

Instead, Agnew, who resigned the vice presidency in disgrace, was laid to rest with a simple service beneath an oak tree. An honor guard troop representing the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard carried Agnew's ashes to a grave site a few feet from where his parents had been buried years earlier, and the service was capped off with a 21-gun salute and a bugler playing taps.

In 1974, former city mayor and later governor Theodore Roosevelt McKeldin was buried privately after a ceremony at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer. No eulogy was delivered, and former mayor Thomas J. D'Alesandro Jr. and then-governor Marvin Mandel served as pallbearers, according to a Sun account of the service.

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