Schaefer’s will shows him eclectic to the last

May 17, 2011

William Donald Schaefer’s ability to surprise, delight and confound was on display Tuesday with the public release of his last will and testament, which showered bits of his $2.4 million estate on devoted aides, friends and institutions.

Beneficiaries ranged from multi­millionaire baker and developer John Paterakis to a chauffeur, an obscure Ellicott City, Md., church and a man who introduced Schaefer to black church leaders a half-century ago at the dawn of Schaefer’s political career.

The former Baltimore mayor, Maryland governor and state comptroller died April 18.

“His will reflects all the things that so many people admired,” said Zelig Robinson, Schaefer’s longtime personal and campaign attorney. “He’s thoughtful, he’s careful and he’s generous.”

Not to mention unpredictable.

Schaefer singled out 20 people for special gifts. The largest by far went to Lainy LeBow-Sachs, a former aide, who is to receive at least $500,000.

LeBow-Sachs said she was “stunned” by the gift. “He’s so wonderful, and he just wanted to touch everybody a little bit,” she said.

The dollar value of the bequests was surely not the point in all cases. Schaefer willed $1,500 to Paterakis, whose personal wealth was estimated at $240 million last year. Brice Phillips, a founder of Phillips Seafood, got $2,500 — and the lone sentence-length tribute in an otherwise straightforward legal document: “He is one of the nicest men I have ever met.”

Another beneficiary was Roscoe Herring, a longtime Schaefer assistant and friend who will receive $2,000. Now 81, Herring says he helped Schaefer get to know influential members of the city’s African American community in 1970 while gearing up to run for mayor.

That interaction forged a bond that led to friendship and lasted four decades. In March, just a few weeks before Schaefer died, Herring said he got a birthday card from the former governor. As usual, there was a check inside.

Willard Bankert Sr. served as Schaefer’s driver and bodyguard for 13 years after he left the governor’s mansion. Bankert remembered how generous Schaefer was when panhandlers would approach him on the streets of Baltimore. He also recalled how Schaefer threw a celebratory dinner at Dalesio’s restaurant in Baltimore’s Little Italy when Bankert’s son graduated from the Baltimore County Police Academy. And now, Schaefer has left him $2,500.

“I think I had the opportunity to see a side of governor Schaefer that most people never got to see,” Bankert said. “His tender side.”

Baltimore Sun

Laura Vozzella covers Virginia politics for The Washington Post.
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