His body was being driven by motorcade past old haunts and spots significant to his life, from his home to City Hall.
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A huge American flag was hoisted by two ladder trucks in front of City Hall as more than 150 people waited for Schaefer's motorcade to arrive.
City workers stood in front of a row of gleaming trucks and other pieces of gleaming equipment parked along Holliday Street, which was closed to traffic.
The Ravens marching band played as the city police and fire department honor guards stood at attention to welcome Schaefer as he made his final entrance into Baltimore City Hall.
The bells of Zion Lutheran Church tolled out over the plaza in front of City Hall as the vanguard of Schaefer's motorcade arrived.
The hearse rolled up in front of City Hall as Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, escorted by a member of the Baltimore Police Honor Guard.
In clipped, precise movements, members of the honor guard lifted the casket, draped in an American flag, and carried it over the cobblestones as Schaefer's body entered City Hall one last time.
As she walked into City Hall, U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a former city councilwoman, recalled her longtime friend.
"He was one of my diner pals. We were diner Democrats," she said. "We never met a calorie we didn't like and a hand we didn't want to shake."
She added, "He had the verve and the vision. We'll never see another William Donald Schaefer."
Schaefer's casket was laid inside the marble atrium on the first floor of City Hall as a host of current and former city and state leaders, including Mikulski, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin and U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, looked on.
The Rev. Frank Reid, pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Church, offered an invocation. Reid thanked God for Schaefer's work in the city.
"We thank you for how much he loved this city and how much this city loved him," he said.
Rawlings-Blake described Schaefer as "one of Baltimore's greatest citizens."
"His deep emotions and passion for Baltimore drove him to accomplish greatness not for himself, but for the city," Rawlings-Blake said.
Schaefer's spirit and aspirations for the city would live on, she said.
"Some see a city filled with landmarks, public investments and buildings that William Donald Schaefer made possible," she said. "But Mayor Schaefer saw things differently. He saw a shining city made of people who made the unrealistic become a reality and the impossible become possible."