By Tyana Campbell
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
ANNAPOLIS – Hundreds crowded into St. John Neumann Catholic Church Tuesday to remember Michael Busch, the longest serving Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates.
Bush, who represented parts of Anne Arundel County that included the state capital, died after developing pneumonia arising from a follow-up procedure to a 2017 liver transplant. He had been diagnosed with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, a liver disease. Also, he had heart bypass surgery in September after experiencing shortness of breath.
Chief of staff Alexandra Hughes said Busch died Sunday, April 7, at the age of 72, surrounded by loved ones.
“I called him in the hospital just to check in on him and let him know that we were all thinking of him and praying for him,” Gov. Larry Hogan told the standing-room only crowd. “A few years earlier he had done the same for me when undergoing my battle with cancer.”
Hogan, a Republican, and Busch, a Democrat, had some political party rivalries over the years but respected each other enough to work on legislation together. The governor said that he and the speaker had a heart-to-heart about how the partisan battles and the political rivalries were not all that important, agreeing that what really mattered were family, loved ones, and the “profound sense of pride that comes with serving the people of Maryland.”
Bruce Pull a friend and colleague acknowledged, “Not everyone thought that he had the credentials to be Speaker of the House, and the opinion leaders would take little shots at him, saying ‘are you kidding me, this guy was a football player in college. He runs track in parks, coaches some teams. What would he ever know’? Boy did he prove them wrong.”
Busch was born in Baltimore and lived in Anne Arundel County from age 10 until he left for college. He was a record-setting running back at Temple University in 1969 but suffered a leg injury that dashed any thoughts of a pro career. The House speaker was often called coach because, after earning a degree in education, he worked as a history teacher and varsity sports coach at St. Mary’s High School before quitting teaching in 1979 and taking on politics and government work. He worked in the Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation and Parks for 40 years. His two daughters played local sports.
Busch had been a member of the House since 1986. He served as speaker from 2003 until his death. He represented District 30A, which encompasses parts of Anne Arundel County, including the state capital.
Many government officials and Maryland lawmakers gathered in their formal attire, complete with the round state delegates’ pin. Some wore the Maryland flag scarf to show their pride for the state. During the service, many remembered Busch for embracing diversity, improving healthcare, tackling issues with the Chesapeake Bay and working to improve school facilities.
“If I knew anything about Mike Busch, he was a JFK Democrat,” Pull said. “It really appealed to him and he really loved the social justice components.”
Ronaldo Brown, another friend of Busch, said, “I did a lot of programs and I always remember Mike donating to each and every one of them.”
“The back to school program and the Christmas program I remember doing very well,” Brown added, “and Mike was a much bigger help to donating and funding these programs.”
The funeral ended with Busch’s daughters, Erin and Megan, sharing their final words, describing how their father called on Sunday nights to check in on them as they both attended college.
“I remember my dad coming to my basketball game,” said Megan, Busch’s youngest daughter. “It was the worse game I ever had. I missed every layup. That night me and my dad drove home in silence while other kids went out for dinner and shared ice cream. As I got home, I remember my dad telling me to grab a basketball, ‘we’re going in the backyard to practice your layups until I say stop.’”
“That night my layup percentage went way up,” Megan said.
Erin said, “He was the guy that stood up for the ordinary citizens, and he was also the guy that never ducked a fight. Mike will always be remembered by many.”
At the end, close family, friends, government officials, and House delegates walked slowly behind the casket covered with a white cloth, making the journey for a private interment at Busch’s final resting place.