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Farewell to Schaefer Begins in Annapolis

People flock to the Maryland State House to say goodbye to the former mayor and governor.

When former governor, and iconic Maryland political figure, William Donald Schaefer arrived at the State House for the final time Monday morning, the crowd gathered wasn't overwhelming.

But by the time the doors opened just after 10 a.m., a line of more than 100 people wrapped around the side of the State House. Waiting under a sea of sunlight, the crowd was diverse, ranging from elderly priests to young State House aides.

While ages and occupations varied, most people seemed set on paying their respects for one simple reason: because of what Schaefer had done for the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland.

“He was a great man, a great mayor, governor and comptroller, and did a lot for the state,” said Henry Green of Annapolis. “I think he genuinely cared about the state and the people.”

Green, who said he once exchanged letters with the former governor, characterized him as someone who “represented the full scope of humanity.”

The governor's last trip to the State House was part of a day-long precession that will end at Baltimore City Hall, where Schaefer's political career began in 1955. Before his body arrives in Baltimore, the motorcade will pass a number of sites that were significant to Schaefer, including his childhood home and Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Among the mourners was Gov. Martin O'Malley, who greeted the hearse, as six pall-bearers slowly brought the casket up a set of brick steps that lead to the State House. Donning a dark suit and a somber expression, O'Malley led the casket past an extensive honor guard and into the State House Rotunda, as onlookers waited for the chance to pay their respects.

“From his famous ‘no excuses’ leadership style, to his celebrated public persona, William Donald Schaefer demonstrated an unrelenting drive to make Maryland a better place,” said O'Malley last week in a press release.

The Maryland political legend will be remembered for a number of different reasons, but for William Kline Coates, a native of Annapolis, Schaefer's revitalization of Baltimore's inner harbor sticks out as his defining achievement.

“I think the renovation of downtown Baltimore sets out in my mind, that's the one I remember,” said Coates. “I'm an Annapolitan, a Baltimorean and I've watched all his progress and the things he did for the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland.”

While efforts in downtown Baltimore are the former governor's defining accomplishment to many, for the Rev. Joseph Krastel of St. Mary's in Annapolis, the construction of Interstate 97, which was completed under Schaefer's administration, has relieved an unknown number of headaches.

“I always say a 'hail Mary' every time I ride on Route 97, because nobody hated Ritchie Highway more than Gov. Schaefer,” said Krastel.

But the Catholic priest also recognized Schaefer's long list of accomplishments in Baltimore.

“He was great for highways, the Baltimore aquarium, the inner harbor and the stadiums,” said Krastel. “He was terrific.”

As the Maryland political giant makes his way through a final tour of his beloved state, one thing seems to be resoundingly clear: he will be remembered.

Story by Christian Freymeyer, photos by Nancy Royden and Associated Press/Gail Burton.

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