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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — William Donald Schaefer, the man who singlehandedly transformed the state of Maryland and who served as mayor, governor and comptroller, has died at the age of 89. Flags across the state are flying at half-staff in honor of Schaefer.
Kai Jackson has reaction to his passing.
Schaefer is linked to the most recognizable landmarks in the city–the Inner Harbor, Oriole Park at Camden Yards and the National Aquarium just to name a few.
A larger than life icon in Maryland politics, Schaefer died Monday in his Baltimore County retirement home at the age of 89.
“I was there when he passed away. I was holding his hand,” said his longtime aide Lainy LeBow-Sachs. “All day long, I was saying how much I loved him and what he meant to me.”
He served four terms as mayor, two as governor, then two as comptroller.
“He was a person who had pretty strong opinions, and he was a person who was not shy about sharing them,” said Governor Martin O’Malley.
“He admired a fighter, as long as it was for the people. If you were fighting for yourself, he had no business with you,” said Senator Barbara Mikulski, who will speak at his funeral. “He was a friend but he was friend to a lot of people. He was a friend to the cab driver, the waiters, the top leadership. He knew everybody but most of all, he worked to know them.”
Schaefer was born in Baltimore on Nov. 2, 1921. His mother was a housewife, his father a lawyer. He served in the Army and later followed in his dad’s footsteps becoming a lawyer, but his calling was helping people–in politics.
Schaefer is as legendary for what he got done, as he is for how he got it done. He hated bureaucracy and wasn’t afraid to say so.
“He was the only mayor I knew, up until high school. He really set the standard, putting his footprint all around Baltimore City. And again, being a visionary leader with a ‘get it done’ attitude,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
Schaefer had recently been treated for pneumonia and his long-time aide LeBow-Sachs was holding his hand as he died.
“For all of the various titles he held, there wasn’t a person in the city of Baltimore that didn’t feel like they couldn’t stop and approach him with a problem and that he wouldn’t follow up. They knew he would,” said O’Malley. “For all his impatience with excuses and bureaucracy, he always had time for a citizen. He went to work every day doing the work of the people.”
Schaefer’s long-time friend and first press secretary, Michael Golden first met the governor in the 1970s.
“He looked at all of us, those of us who worked for him, and those of us that he served as his family. That was his life. That was what drove him 24- 7,” said Michael Golden, first press secretary.
“The one thing that I noticed about William Donald Schaefer was he was big so the city would be big. He used all of his personality to promote the city because he had a deep faith that Baltimore’s best days were yet to come,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake.
O’Malley says Schaefer was a person who was “impatient with slowness in government” but who always had time for the people he served.
“And we’re all going to miss him and at the same time I think all of us can feel grateful for the service that he gave to all of us in his distinguished career,” said O’Malley.
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Schaefer never married and doesn’t leave behind a big family. His longtime companion, First Hostess Hilda Mae Snoops, died 12 years ago.
“He loved her so much; they went back and forth like an old married couple,” said Baltimore City Council Member Mary Pat Clarke. “We lost a lot. We owe it to him and ourselves to pick up his legacy and carry it on.”
Schaefer was educated in Baltimore schools. He graduated from City College in 1939.
In November 2009, Schaefer was honored with a statue at Harborplace, one of his proudest accomplishments. The ceremony was one of his last public appearances.
Rawlings-Blake declared a moment of silence for the governor’s passing at 9 a.m. Tuesday. She urged residents,visitors and friends of the city to participate in remembering Schaefer as “one of the greatest mayors in American history.” Rawlings-Blake says the biggest gift he gave Baltimore was a spirit that the city had a promising future.
Schaefer will lie in repose Monday, April 25 at the State House and Tuesday, April 26 at Baltimore’s City Hall. His funeral will be on April 27 at 11 a.m. at the Old St. Paul’s Church in Baltimore, and he will be buried later that afternoon at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens. Click here for funeral plans.