Schaefer honors friends, institutions in will

Longtime aide gets $500,000

May 17, 2011|By Liz F. Kay, Scott Calvert and Laura Vozzella, The Baltimore Sun

William Donald Schaefer's ability to surprise, delight and confound was on display again Tuesday with the public release of his last will and testament, which showered bits of his $2.4 million estate on devoted aides, friends and institutions.

Beneficiaries ranged from multimillionaire baker and developer John Paterakis to a chauffeur, an obscure Ellicott City church and a man who introduced Schaefer to black church leaders a half-century ago, at the dawn of the future mayor, governor and state comptroller's political career.

"His will reflects all the things that so many people admired," said Zelig Robinson, Schaefer's longtime personal and campaign attorney, who first prepared his will 10 or 15 years ago and revised it at Schaefer's direction "from time to time," most recently in 2009. "He's thoughtful, he's careful and he's generous."

Not to mention unpredictable.

Schaefer, whose 50 years in public life put him in contact with thousands, singled out 20 people for special gifts. The largest by far went to Lainy LeBow-Sachs, his former aide and one of his personal representatives, who is to receive $500,000, as well as a quarter of whatever is left of the estate after it is distributed.

Jeanne Bell of Locust Point, a friend for 30 years who three years ago tried to help Schaefer thwart LeBow-Sachs' plan to move him to the Charlestown retirement community, received only his plate and stamp collections. Bell, who had Schaefer's power of attorney at one point, declined to comment.

"He did what he wanted to do," said LeBow-Sachs, adding that she was "stunned" by his large gift to her. "He's so wonderful and he just wanted to touch everybody a little bit."

The dollar value of the bequests was surely not the point for some beneficiaries. Schaefer, who died April 18, gave $1,500 to Paterakis, whose personal wealth was estimated at $240 million last year by The National Herald, a Greek-American newspaper. Brice Phillips, one of the founders of Phillips Seafood, got $2,500 — and the lone sentence-length tribute in an otherwise straightforward legal document: "He is one of the nicest men I have ever met."

Nelson J. Sabatini, who served as state secretary of health under Schaefer from 1991 to 1995, had a hard time believing he was given $1,500.

"Are you kidding me?" he told a reporter. "Wow. That's astounding."

"It's worth $10 million to me to know he was thinking about me the way he did," Sabatini said in an emotion-choked voice. "It makes me realize how justified I was in loving the old man the way I did."

Sabatini said he would try to think of how best to spend the money. Maybe, he mused, he'll plant African violets somewhere in Schaefer's honor.

"He gave me more than I could ever have asked, just in terms of his friendship and loyalty and what I learned from him," Sabatini said. "Look, the privilege of having been able to work for William Donald Schaefer was something you should almost have to pay for."

The value of Schaefer's estate is estimated in the will at $2.4 million, $2 million of that in personal property and $400,000 in real estate. But Matthew Penater, one of the attorneys working on the estate, said those numbers will not be finalized until an accounting is filed next February.

The will, filed with the Register of Wills in Baltimore County Circuit Court, dictates that his memorabilia, writings, photographs and other personal property be given to the William Donald Schaefer Foundation Inc. These items are now maintained by the Maryland State Archives.

The will stipulated that his funeral and related expenses were to be paid from his estate.

One of the more obscure beneficiaries is Roscoe Herring, a longtime assistant and friend of Schaefer's who stands to receive $2,000. Now 81, Herring says he helped Schaefer get to know influential members of the city's African-American community in 1970 while gearing up to run for mayor.

"My connection was — I am sure I'm right on this — I was the one who introduced him to the black community," Herring said. "Somehow I met him. I decided I was going to support him, so I took him to this breakfast with a group of Baptist ministers. It was at the Holiday Inn downtown. He met them, and they certainly liked him."

Their early interaction forged a bond that led to friendship and lasted four decades. In March, just a few weeks before Schaefer died, Herring says he got his last birthday card from the former governor, and as usual there was a check inside.

Herring says it "doesn't come as a total surprise" to hear that he made Schaefer's will. Still, he said, "It makes me feel great."

The former governor honored both the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore and the National Aquarium with $2,500 gifts as well as several churches, including Old St. Paul's Church in Baltimore, where his funeral was held.

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