Touching home: one final lap around Baltimore

Hundreds line streets and landmarks to offer personal farewells

April 25, 2011|By Jean Marbella, The Baltimore Sun

Marylanders — hands on their hearts, crisply saluting or wiping away tears — lined streets and gathered at landmarks to bid personal farewells to William Donald Schaefer Monday afternoon, as the former mayor and governor was taken on one final trip by motorcade through his beloved Baltimore.

"His heart was in the city, and I wanted to say goodbye," said Bronwyn Mayden, who watched from Lexington Market, near her office at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, where she is an assistant dean.

It was an oft-repeated sentiment along the 14-mile course that served as a partial rewinding of Schaefer's life, one largely lived within the boundaries of a city that bears the legacy of his terms in office.

For two hours, the motorcade traveled to some of the spots nearest and dearest to his heart, from his childhood home in West Baltimore to the Inner Harbor, from Camden Yards to Corned Beef Row, from Federal Hill to Little Italy. Along the way, he would be feted by music — by players from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to those from the Baltimore Colts turned Baltimore Ravens Marching Band — and heralded with signs, some handmade with messages of gratitude, others old campaign posters, yellowed and faded.

Most touching to the former aides and friends who had choreographed the tour, though, were not the landmarks that he had a hand in building, but the people who gathered along the motorcade route or waited at the stops. Some were fellow politicians he had worked or battled with, some were advocates who represented neighborhoods or causes, most were simply Baltimoreans who came out for one final show of support.

"It was all the people he loved and who loved him," said Lainy LeBow-Sachs, Schaefer's longtime aide, who received multiple flowers and tributes on his behalf. "And that's what he was all about — people, people, people."

The day began in Annapolis, with Schaefer lying in state at the State House for several hours. Then the motorcade, led by motorcycle police and carrying some of Schaefer's closest friends, made its first stop at his childhood home, 620 Edgewood St. in West Baltimore, where a Maryland flag was flying from its porch.

There, a warm and welcoming crowd applauded as the cars approached, waved signs and offered up pots of Schaefer's favored African violets — the kind of scene that would be repeated as the group criss-crossed the city.

"Hi, Schaefer!" one woman said brightly as she patted the hearse bearing his flag-draped casket.

It was that kind of personal gesture that warmed Bob Douglas' heart. The former aide watched as people waved and spoke as if Schaefer could see and hear them and, in some cases, even followed his path to multiple stops.

"My memory is going to be the people, calling out to him as we drove by: 'We love you. We'll never forget you,' " he said. "I saw a woman on Rollerblades at four different stops."

Margaret McCloud, 50, who has lived all her life two doors away from the Schaefer home, remembered him as "a good governor and a good man." Her daughter, Shakeya Hawkins, now 21, once knocked on the door of 620 to ask for an autograph, and his security detail let her in.

McCloud would reconnect with him toward the end of his life — she has been a cook for almost 11 years at the Charlestown retirement community where he lived his final years. It's nice, she said, that he returned home one last time.

Even on streets where the motorcade wasn't stopping, Baltimoreans gathered to bow their heads, take cellphone pictures and applaud.

As the motorcade arrived at Lexington Market — which the former mayor is credited with saving from financial ruin — they rang a bell that once was used to mark the market's opening and closing. In more recent years it has been reserved for special occasions. This one qualified.

"We'll ring it vigorously in honor of a man larger than life," said Bill Devine, who with his wife, Nancy Faidley, often welcomed Schaefer to their seafood counters.

From there, the vehicles headed to the Washington Monument, where some of the city's arts community welcomed them — a brass quartet of BSO players and museum representatives among them.

"I'm here to show respect, reverence — all the Rs you can think of," said Carol Purcell, chairwoman of the Flower Mart that Schaefer supported. She was wearing the kind of flower-bedecked hat seen during that springtime event, and bearing a sign that announced, "Schaefer 'Little Girl' and Proud of It!"

Passing the School for the Arts, the motorcade made its way to the Basilica of the Assumption, where Bishop Denis J. Madden and several neighborhood priests blessed the casket, praying over it and sprinkling it with holy water.

As some of those gathered touched the hearse bearing Schaefer's casket, the motorcade made its way to the ballpark, where Orioles' representatives presented orange flowers and a big baseball to LeBow-Sachs.

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