Longtime Aide Talks About Schaefer’s Final Hours

Share Your Memories About Former Governor William Donald Schaefer At The Bottom Of This Page Following Other Readers’ Comments

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The death of Baltimore mayor, governor and comptroller William Donald Schaefer is still on the minds of many Marylanders.

His longtime aide, who was with him when he died, is speaking out.

Mary Bubala has more on his final hours and his last goodbyes.  

Schaefer spent decades in the public spotlight, always doing something for the city he loved, whether it was fixing a pothole or building a huge tourist attraction.  In his final hours, those who knew him said “thank you.” 

William Donald Schaefer died peacefully early Monday night with his cat “Willie” sitting nearby.

His longtime aide, Lainy LeBow-Sachs, was holding his hand.  

“Well, I was saying all day long how much I loved him and what he meant to me. I was saying it over and over and over.  I think he could hear me,” she said.

LeBow-Sachs arranged a conference call with people Schaefer knew and loved through the years. One by one Monday afternoon, they said their goodbyes on the phone.

Then, something spontaneous happened.

“At the very end is this phenomenal trumpet player and musician. Next thing I hear is Maryland, my Maryland.  So everybody was sobbing and it was quite a moment,” said LeBow-Sachs.  “It was so wonderful that when we hung up, I was just so happy that they had done that and everyone had that moment with him.”

“I just decided I would pick up my horn and play a tribute to him, `Maryland, My Maryland,’ the state song.  I couldn’t think of anything more fitting,” Jari Villanueva said.

Mark Wasserman, Schaefer’s former chief-of-staff, was on that call, too.  He first worked with Schaefer when he was just 26.

“You try and gather your words, think what it is you want to say.  I told him he was in my heart and in our hearts and thanked him for everything he’d done for me—which is enormous—and for the people,” Wasserman said.  “It is a moment that will live with me and everyone who experienced it forever.”

The public’s last chance to say goodbye begins next Monday when he will lie in repose at the State House in Annapolis. Click here for the funeral plans.

Some of the city’s and state’s most powerful lawmakers are just beginning to grasp what’s been lost.

“We’ve lost a lot.  We owe it to him and to ourselves to pick up that legacy,” said Mary Pat Clarke, Baltimore City councilwoman.

“He was a friend, but he was a friend to a lot of people,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski.

“For all his impatience with excuses and bureaucracy, he always had time for a citizen who approached him in any setting and had a problem,” said Governor Martin O’Malley.

Schaefer is also remembered by the man who defeated him in the race for state comptroller.

“Governor Schaefer was a man of compassion without limits,” said Peter Franchot, Maryland comptroller. “He was driven by a need to speak for those who had no other voice. At the end of the day, he measured his own success by his ability to help the people.”

LeBow-Sachs says she’s prepared to speak at Schaefer’s funeral on Wednesday, something the former governor asked her to do.

“You know, they’ll never been another William Donald Schaefer. He’s just one of a kind. And I think everybody would agree with me,” she said.

LeBow-Sachs says so many people have sent in letters with stories of how Schaefer helped them, she hasn’t had a chance to read them all. She says it would make a great book.

She also says as part of the celebration of Schaefer’s life, the Morgan State choir will perform at his funeral next week, along with the marching band.

Meanwhile, Ron Matz remembers a memorable interview he did with Schaefer four years ago that he calls “classic William Donald Schaefer.” 

It took place at Jimmy’s Restaurant on Jan. 8 2007.  Schaefer’s wit was still razor sharp.

“Good to see you,” said Matz.

“I wish I could say the same for you, but I’m not the big liar I used to be,” said Schaefer.

Matz and Schaefer talked football that day with Indianapolis coming to town to play the Ravens.  At the time, Schaefer remembered another Baltimore icon.

“The greatest Colt that ever lived is a man by the name of Johnny Unitas. He was the nicest man in sports. The whole team was gentlemen,” Schaefer said.

Click here for a slideshow about William Donald Schaefer.

More from Mary Bubala
Comments

One Comment

  1. John says:

    RIP Willie Don.!

  2. State Employee says:

    R.I.P. Mr Schaefer

    1. Jayme Cutting says:

      We met Governor Shaefer in Gettysburg when They were dedicating the Maryland Memorial “Brother against Brother”. He stopped and talked with us, he posed for pictures, he told us how proud he was to see our family there supporting our state in 100 plus degree heat, even though he was dressed in a suit, then he had one of his assistants give us all bottled water from his bus. That was a day I’ll never forget. We as Marylanders were blessed to have had him involved in so many branches of Maryland government, he cared about this state like no other, but he also cared so deeply about the people that lived here!!. ” Willie Don ” you are truly loved, an will be missed by all………….

  3. BmoCaring says:

    There was a time you were PROUD to be a Baltimorean…that’s when William Donald Schaefer was the Mayor! He was intelligent, charismatic, charming, witty, a spitfire, a fighter, and a lover of humanity! He cared about Baltimore and ALL of the people in it! He encouraged unity amongst neighbors, education in schools, encouraged employment, loved and wanted to help the environment! There will not be any other politician like him for sure here! Without him we would’tnt have had the Inner Harbor, The Aquarium, Blue Chip Program(jobs for kids in the summer), Clean Block Parties in the summer….I met him as a kid and always thought…Gee when I get older Im voting for him..LOL…He was a cool guy! He will be sorely missed & I will miss your presence! RIP WM Donald Schaefer…You were Baltimore!!

  4. Ann Izzo says:

    My children’s father and I will always remember W.D. Schafer keeping his promise when the Aquarium did’t open. He got dressed up in a bathing suit from the ’30’s with a duck and went into a pool for one of the aquatic animals and went under. If he said he was going to do something, he kept his promise.

  5. Michelle says:

    He will be missed from alot of people. William Donald Schafer did do alot for this city and I am greatful that he did. He was and still a great man and I am
    pround to have meant him years ago. I voted for him each year when it was time to vote. R.I.P W.D Schafer your in a better place and you are watching over your city that you made.

  6. Connie Kihm says:

    When we arrived in Baltimore on July 4, 1973, the first person we met was Mayor Schaefer at the Constellation. There were only about 50 people on the ship, but the Mayor greeted us warmly. I have a photo of me thanking him for that 24 years later outside Jos. A Bank on Light Street following a Miracle Tie event. That was October 1997. He was a gentleman and a visionary. We’ll miss you.

  7. AUDREY COMBS says:

    HI MY DAUGHTER AND I MEET WILLIAM DONALD SCHAEFER A COUPLE YEARS AGO HE IS FRIENDLY AND FUNNY TO HIM AND HIS AID STOPPED BY McDONALD’S IN WOODBINE MD I ASK HIM FOR HIS AUTOGRAPH AND HE LAUGHED AND SAID IF HE COULD REMEMBER HOW TO SPELL HIS NAME SO HE SIGN SOME FRENCH FRY BAGS FOR ME SO COOL HE CAME IN SIT IN THE BACK BOOTH AND PUT HIS FEET UP JUST LIKE HE WAS AT HOME I WILL NEVER FORGET THAT DAY. AUDREY COMBS AND JAMIE DRIVER WOODBINE MD

  8. Pat Thompson says:

    Wm. Donald Schaefer was a man among men. He will be missed. My story happened in the 1980’s, someone was always commenting about him and though he got “even” for the slights he also was generous. I had sent him a note telling him how much I loved his hats after another had made a public comment about them. I thought that was it. But, a few months later I got an invitation to the State House for a reception,flabergasted I wondered if it was in error..it wasn’t. The evening of the event, with all the “Waterford Crystal” gleaming and new fountain working we were greeted graciously by our host. After the tours etc. he said to me, you were the one who loved my hats, yes I said, so he took me to see them and exlained some of their meaning. I will never forget this night visiting the State House and our beloved “Mayor Schaefer”. We are all richer for having him in our city and state. I will keep him in my heart forever.

  9. Arthur Pugh says:

    Did you know that Schaefer-was the primary-person-behind the lighting of the Washington Monument-at Christmas-time

  10. JharRN says:

    gonna miss the Mayor, the tile he should be most proud of…by the way, who is taking care of his furry friend WIllie??

  11. Jerry Chiat says:

    Governor Schaefer was invited to speak at The Baltimore City Chamber and he was terrific. He was mensche.

  12. jackie r says:

    Governor Shaefer will be greatly missed, it wa not about politics or democrat or republican, He was about the people and the good of the state, I loved how he told it like it was and let the stuff fall where it would, there will never be another like him. We were blessed to have him as our governor. whne you see campden yard or m&t say a thank you to Gov. Shaefer. such a huge loss. and sorely missed.

  13. Marsha Faizi says:

    I lived in Baltimore during the Mayor Schafer years. I feel fortunate to have seen how he could govern. Hard to imagine how anyone could have been a better fit for the job. He was everywhere — not just on the news but in person. you could see him driving his car or he would walk into Remington’s book store– no fanfare — just a customer. Never a politician but a human living on a human level — what you saw is what you got. Baltimore got plenty.

  14. Lourdes says:

    RIP. You have been a great inspiration to the citizens of Baltimore. Your legacy will live on forever. You will never be forgotten. How can you be? Everywhere you look, there is something to remind us of you. Eternal blessings. Lourdes

  15. ED. JOHNSON says:

    IT HAS BEEN 30 YEARS AGO THAT I WENT ON A JOB INTERVIEW. ON THAT DAY MAYOR WILLIAM DONALD SCHAEFER WAS GOING INTO THE SEAL POOL AT THE AQUARIUM BECAUSE THE AQUARIUM DID NOT OPEN UP ON THE DAY THAT IT WAS SCHEDULED TO OPEN. THAT DAY TURNED OUT TO BE ONE OF THE BEST DAYS OF MY LIFE. THANKS TO MAYOR SCHAEFER FOR THE DEVELMENT OF THE INTER HARBOR AND THE AQUARIUM WITCH WAS THE JOB THAT I WAS INTERVIEWING FOR 30 YEARS AGO AND STILL WORKING AT THIS TIME. YOU WILL ALWAYS BE A PART OF MY LIFE. BLESS YOU.

  16. Crystal Kennell says:

    Myself & my family,had often seen Governor Schaefer at Stoney Creek Inn resturant in Pasadena.He was a regular there,& so was I & my family.When we seen him,he always conversated with us,& he was overall very friendly.He was also a terrific governor!If we had more politicians today who had even half his spark,persistence,& get it done now attitude,the United States would be a much better place!!He did alot for the city of Baltimore & Maryland in general!He will be greatly missed!We’ll never have another like him,he was truly one of a kind!Thank you for everything you have done for us governor!Now you can finally rest in piece,after your lifetime of hard work……….

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