Columbian sings anthem for inaugural ball


January 24, 2001|By Heather Tepe | Heather Tepe,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

FOR DONNA Greenwald, singing the national anthem Saturday at the Florida Inaugural Ball in Washington was the most meaningful experience of her "National Anthem Tour" - which began nine years ago.

"I was elated because I felt as though I had climbed the mountain and reached the summit," she said. "That's the ultimate feeling of patriotism, when you sing on the presidential podium."

In 1992, the Hickory Ridge resident embarked on a quest to sing "The Star Spangled Banner" at every major league baseball park on the continent. She accomplished that goal before a game between the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Orioles in August 1999 in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Nicknamed "Anthem Annie," Greenwald's journey began after she received a karaoke machine from her husband, Gary. Unbeknown to Donna, Gary took a recording of her singing the anthem to the Orioles' main office. "I was the third person to be called to sing at the new stadium," she said.

Donna Greenwald's love for the song is rooted in her childhood.

"Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing the anthem in school made a strong impression on me," she said.

She remembers piling into the car with her parents and two brothers to visit relatives on the West Coast every other summer. She would count the flags they passed on these family trips.

"The anthem is a song that I hold close to heart," she said. "When I sing it, I honor the country that I traveled as a child."

Greenwald's youngest daughter, Rebecca,7, was named for the song. Rebecca's middle name is Dawn - referring to the lyric, "by the dawn's early light." The Greenwalds' other children are Jodi, 25, and Danny, 16.

Donna Greenwald doesn't know how many times she has performed the anthem, but she knows her audience has been significant. "I've been told that I have sung the national anthem in front of more people than anybody else in the world," she said.

Although she had an inkling that she might be asked to perform during the inaugural festivities - in 1999, Donna had received a call from a staff member in Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's office suggesting that she might be singing in Washington someday - she didn't get official word until two days before the event.

Greenwald said she rushed to find a gown to wear. She settled on a floor-length, black gown with a beaded jacket.

She and her husband took the Metro into Washington for the ball. "We were told that it would be the easiest way to get there," she said, "and we weren't the only ones on the Metro wearing tuxedos and ball gowns that evening."

Greenwald was escorted to the stage by country music performer Larry Gatlin of the Gatlin Brothers and by Miss Florida.

"I felt as though I was floating on air," Greenwald said. "It was truly an honor to have been given this opportunity."

Now that she has accomplished her goal of singing in 30 baseball stadiums, Greenwald said she is content to continue singing locally at patriotic engagements - for a while. "I'm not done," she said. "There's going to be another quest. If I travel again, I will focus on another sport. Maybe hockey or basketball."

Peace Corps volunteer

Tova Pertman, 27, of Hickory Ridge left last week for a two-year assignment with the Peace Corps in Uzbekistan. Pertman will teach English to students and teachers.

Her mother, Mina Pertman, said the assignment is the fulfillment of Tova's childhood dream.

"Since she was very young, Tova wanted to join the Peace Corps," Pertman said. "She has a heart of gold and has always wanted to help people."

A graduate of Atholton High School and the University of Maryland, College Park, Tova Pertman holds a degree in hearing and speech therapy. Before her departure, she worked for the Associated Press in Washington.

Pageant contestants wanted

The Miss Howard County Scholarship Pageant, an official preliminary to the Miss Maryland and Miss America contests, is seeking young women between ages 17 and 24 to compete for the title of Miss Howard County 2001.

In addition to winning scholarships and prizes, Miss Howard County will serve as an advocate for an issue of personal importance during her year of service. The pageant will be held Feb. 18 in the Great Room at Savage Mill.

An orientation meeting for contestants will be held Sunday. Potential candidates should contact Wayne Danley, executive director for the pageant, at 301-890-3624.

Reflections winners

Congratulations to students from Atholton High School who were chosen as winners at the school level in the National PTA's Reflections Program: Margaret Distler, Jennifer Gill, Kathryn Green, Elizabeth Klaczynski and Anna Sittig.

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