Like so many centenarians before her, Angie DiPaola was given a big party for her 100th birthday. With the milestone passed, she assumed her big party days were over.
But when the owners of Epic Pizza in Timonium heard that one of their regular customers might have her 101st birthday pass without much fanfare, they decided another big party was in order.
Dozens of friends, neighbors and unsuspecting customers were given a total of 101 free slices of pizza at Epic Pizza on Wednesday afternoon, three days before DiPaola's birthday on Jan. 26.
"I feel very enthused and happy they thought of me," Angie, who fought back tears with the arrival of every well-wisher said. "My friends, they look after me."
DiPaola lives with her sister-in-law, JoAnn DiPaola, in Hunt Valley, but has spent her entire life in the Baltimore area. One of eight children, she grew up in the corner house of the 3800 block of Reisterstown Road and, beginning in 1938, took a job at Sears Roebuck on North Avenue when it first opened.
"I opened it," she said with a laugh. She ended up staying for 38 years before retiring.
"It was a very good company to work for," she said. "They looked after you."
JoAnn said Angie never married, but the family's roots are spread throughout the area.
Angie's brother, Joe DiPaola, was a sports photographer for the Baltimore Sun. Other members of the family owned a bar near Memorial Stadium frequented by the Colts and Orioles. They also owned the Turf Inn in Timonium.
Many family members were in attendance Wednesday at Epic Pizza.
Shawn DiPaola, who said her husband is Angie's nephew, brought several of her children to celebrate.
"It's just miraculous," she said, "and to watch her go is amazing."
Shawn DiPaola said she used to work with the elderly, and Angie "puts people in their 70s to shame."
With every guest to arrive, Angie became more overwhelmed. In addition to the invited guests, many of the other customers who recieved free slices wished her a happy birthday and brought a smile to Angie's face. At breaks in the action, she stood up at her crowded booth to address the crowd.
"I'm 101," she said one time, simply putting her hand over her mouth in disbelief.
But before she blew out the candles on her two birthday cakes, Angie expressed her gratitude to everyone in attendance.
"I hope everybody has a long life like I did," she said.
For Matt Dell, an owner of the eatery, that could mean more pizza parties.
"If they want to have a party here, every 101-year-old in Baltimore can come," he said.
But Dell and his partners felt it fit to give Angie a celebration and to share the party with other loyal customers.
"It's fantastic," Dell said. "Angie's in here all the time. She's special."