A Good Goodbye for William Donald Schaefer

Apr 26, 2011 | 0 comments

The life and character of former Maryland Governor and Baltimore mayor William Donald Schaefer was celebrated yesterday with funeral rituals that covered the geography of his youth to the pinnacle of power.

His body lay in state in Annapolis, the capitol of Maryland, and was driven past his boyhood home in Baltimore. The four-term mayor and two-term governor was known for his phrase “Do It NOW.” Perhaps that should be inscribed on his headstone.

Here’s the start of a wonderful Washington Post story about Schaefer’s funeral, by Marc Fisher:

Crowds gather in Baltimore, Annapolis to bid Schaefer farewell

Four hours before William Donald Schaefer was to be driven in a hearse past his boyhood home on his final journey through the city that was his family, a Baltimore municipal trash truck made an extra pass down Edgewood Street to collect the garbage.

A street sweeper spruced up the pavement, the police checked that everything was just so, and two men from City Hall stepped up to Paula Deadwyler’s porch to attach a flagpole and raise Maryland’s colors.

Other city workers brought Deadwyler, who bought 620 Edgewood from Schaefer in 1998, a basket of African violets, instructing her to hold the flowers when the mayor’s coffin passed by because violets were his favorite. On Monday, as throughout the life of the four-term mayor and two-term governor, everbody working for him knew their job was to “Do It NOW.”

That injunction, in the mayor’s urgently scrawling hand, is now inscribed in bronze in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, where a statue of Schaefer — another stop on Monday’s farewell tour — presides over the city’s premier tourist attraction.

Schaefer, who died April 18 at 89, drew crowds all around his city Monday, not only because he was a master builder in an era when many major U.S. cities were collapsing into physical and social decay, but also because he was a politician who never seemed to stray from the neighborhoods and people he first represented as a city councilman in the 1950s.

“It was still white people up here when my parents moved in,” said Melody Sayre, a bus coach driver who lives a few doors down from the old Schaefer house in a neighborhood that is now almost entirely black. “Schaefer would come by to talk to my mom about the issues, and I looked at him as a role model, a father figure. He was a down-home, good person. He would get on you about not keeping your property up, but you knew he was for the right things. Even now, I tell the youngsters to keep their pants up — they know I expect that, and they respect it.”

Sayre, Deadwyler and 300 of their neighbors crowded onto the narrow sidewalks just after 3 p.m. to watch as a long procession of city and state police vehicles led the honor guard for Schaefer’s hearse. The motorcade halted in front of Deadwyler’s house, the tour’s first stop, and a delegation of the mayor’s friends stepped out to greet people.

“There are no more politicians like him,” said Deadwyler, 51, who admires the way Schaefer and his mother kept up the hardwood floors in the slender four-bedroom rowhouse they passed on to her. “Everybody’s out for their own now. But Schaefer built things — I go down there to the harbor, and I love the water taxi, the duck bus, all that. Makes me proud.”

“Thanks for bringing him home,” Margaret Bracy, 74, called out to Schaefer’s friends and colleagues as they shook hands and traded hugs with her neighbors. Bracy lived one block up from Schaefer, and her two boys delivered the newspaper to his home and cut his grass. “He was honest, and he spoke his mind. A lot of people don’t like for you to be outspoken, but we appreciated it from him because we knew he was honest.”

Read the full story…

A Good Goodbye