Ain't the urn cool!

Chuck Thompson wasn't just a Hall of Fame sports announcer. He also was a husband, the kind who parked himself on a shopping mall bench while his wife roamed the stores. So his final resting place -- in the courtyard of a revamped shopping mall -- could not be more fitting.

Six months after Thompson's death, his ashes have just been interred inside a giant outdoor fireplace at Hunt Valley Towne Centre. Betty Thompson says her late husband had wanted his remains sprinkled over the Loch Raven Reservoir, but turns out that's not allowed. (It's used for drinking water, after all.)

She'd stashed an urn with his ashes in the spare bedroom closet. "I didn't know what I was going to do with them," she said.

Then fate, in the form of a shopping mall developer, intervened.

Looking to shake the pre-fab feel from its northern Baltimore County project, Greenberg Commercial Corp. asked if it could name the outdoor courtyard for the late Colts and Orioles announcer.

They were after a little local character.

They got the whole guy, urn and all.

"I asked them [to stash the ashes inside the fireplace] and they said, `Of course,'" Betty Thompson said.

That sure put the "memorial" in the Chuck Thompson Memorial Plaza, though nothing on the premises lets on that there's a one-man cemetery amid all that shopping.

A 12-foot stone tower surrounded by lush landscaping and storefront parking, the fireplace is an eternal flame of sorts. There's a plaque with Thompson's likeness and a few words about him, but no hint that he lies within.

Nor was there any mention of the ashes during a dedication ceremony this week, an event that drew dignitaries such as first lady Kendel Ehrlich and County Executive Jim Smith, Richard Sher and the Orioles mascot.

Sher, in a broadcasting feat that could earn the WJZ-TV reporter his own shopping center shrine someday, played master of ceremonies and covered the event as a news story.

If Starbucks comes, can chic be far behind?

Forgive West Baltimoreans if they cop an attitude this morning.

They awake today to the whoosh of the milk frother and the scent of burnt coffee beans.

Starbucks has arrived.

And in the minds of many, that means they've arrived, too - before most of Baltimore.

Posher neighborhoods might turn up their noses at chain-store coffee. But they'll have to cross town to do it.

Tony Mount Washington and the touristy Inner Harbor are the only other corners of Charm City that boast stand-alone Starbucks. You can buy the brew inside the Canton Safeway store, but any cafe society chic gets lost amid the beep-beep of trash bags and Tide getting scanned at the checkout.

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