ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ)—A special dedication, as one Howard County church remembers former Governor William Donald Schaefer. He often attended the services.
Gigi Barnett explains the members say their memorial is for younger church members too.
Sunday mornings at Gary Memorial United Methodist Church in Ellicott City begins with choir rehearsal. But this Sunday the song– and a new pew plaque– honor former Governor William Donald Schaefer.
“He was usually here early,” said Suzanne Bruley, Gary Memorial member. “He had his permanent seat. He didn’t change. He was a permanent fixture.”
Members set the plaque on Schafer’s favorite pew. It’s one of several memorials around Maryland created since Schaefer died back in April. A small sign that shows the former governor is still missed.
“Everywhere I go, people want to tell me how much they loved him. He touched everyone,” said Lainy Lebow-Sachs, longtime former Schaefer aide and friend.
For nearly a decade, Schaefer regularly attended the historic church –tucked away in the Patapsco Valley State Park.
He never became a member but always referred to Gary Memorial as his church.
“He kept saying ‘I’m coming to your church on Sunday,’ and I said, ‘sure you are.’ So, he started showing up, and then he was a regular. He rarely missed a Sunday,” said Rev. Luther Starns.
Starns was the pastor at Gary Memorial around the time Schaefer started attending. He also served on the former governor’s cabinet.
Starns says the plaque is also for a younger generation who never attended church with the former governor.
“He was right at home with them. And, little kids felt free saying hello to him,” Rev. Starns said.
Members of Gary Memorial say Schaefer so loved this church that he left $10,000 to it in his will.
Gary Memorial United Methodist Church has just 80 worshipers most Sundays.