Yankee Doodle Marylanders

Townsend, Shriver, Angelos Share July 4th Birthday With The Usa

July 04, 2009|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,candy.thomson@baltsun.com

Peter Angelos is taking a rare day off. Pam Shriver is leaving the television spotlight and making a dash from England to California to be with her three children. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend will spend a civilized day in Towson instead of enjoying the outdoors at some exotic locale. As the nation turns 233 today, Angelos will celebrate his 80th birthday, Shriver, her 47th, and Townsend, her 57th. Even though being a year older isn't thrilling, each of them considers sharing their birthday with the nation an honor.

"Christmas is a terrible birthday," Townsend said, laughing. "The Fourth of July is the best possible birthday you could have because it is always a holiday; people always want to celebrate and do something special on it. You can be in the United States and it's great. You can be floating down rivers. I've been camping in Alaska in the wilderness. I've been hiking in Greece. I've been floating down the Mississippi. There's always adventure when the Fourth of July is your birthday."

Angelos says he realized his birthday was special "way back when I was a little guy because people would comment about it being a big thing."

It didn't bother him that he had to share the focus of the day with fireworks, cookouts and parades. "Having been born on that day, you were the focus ... in fact, some people were, how do you put it, envious," he said.

Shriver, too, enjoyed sharing the day.

"It took me a little while to accept that all the commotion was not only because of my birthday," she admits. "And then when I got old enough to understand that it was a big national holiday, I thought it was really cool."

And there's something perfect about the timing, Shriver says. "When your birthday is in July, it's like six months removed from Christmas so it's spaced beautifully for a kid. When you get to be an adult, let's face it, you don't have quite the same birthday celebration outlook."

The son of Greek immigrants, Angelos says his parents treated the holiday with reverence. "They were pleased to be here and to make a new life and to take on a new allegiance to their new country. They were pleased to take part in the celebration."

Angelos retains that feeling. "It's a day to remember ... that we're fortunate to be part of this great country and to participate in all the great things about America. Of course, in recent days, things are not so good but nonetheless on this coming Fourth of July we'll say, 'We're still the country of great promise and despite the problems, we can regain a new confidence that we're going to overcome those problems that confront us today.' "

Angelos says he's an optimist. "We've had even worse times. If you check American history, it hasn't been easy, despite the fact that when we talk about the history it's always discussed in a way that makes it sound as though it was an easy ride. ... We've had many ups and many downs, but ultimately, we've prevailed and we'll do that again, for sure."

As he's gotten older, the birthday celebrations have grown quieter.

"It's just a reminder of one more year going by," said Angelos, who also shares a birthday with New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who is one year younger. "I don't like to think about the passage of time. The important thing to think about is what you're going to do with time as it passes and make it count ... as times goes on, you should attempt to do better than you have in the past. And if you're still alive and kicking, no matter what the birthday may be, you still have that opportunity."

These days, the Orioles' boss and owner of the law firm that bears his name marks July 4 as only the top dog can: "I don't work, that's for sure, for one day. People say, 'He's always working.' But on that day, I'm certainly not going to be in the office. I'm going to celebrate with everybody else, particularly with friends and family."

In addition to being July 4th babies, there's a "six degrees of Kevin Bacon" aspect connecting these Yankee Doodle Marylanders. Angelos owns the Orioles. Shriver is an investor in the team. Townsend's late father, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, was the brother of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who is the mother of Maria Shriver, a fourth cousin of Pam Shriver.

It's a small world.

Shriver will also spend the Fourth with her family. For the past three decades, July 4 has almost always meant the Wimbledon tennis championships for Shriver, once a top-ranked player who captured the doubles title five times in the 1980s and now is a television analyst.

"This year, I'm racing home from Wimbledon ... to spend Fourth of July with my kids, and for the first time they're going to see a big Fourth of July parade and fireworks in Coronado, Calif., which is where my mom grew up," Shriver said.

Her son, George, turns 5 on July 12, and twins Kaitlin and Samuel will celebrate their 4th birthday this fall.

"They're going to hear their first fireworks up close, so we'll have to see how that goes," Shriver said.

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