"Congratulations on your birthday," read the card.

At one time oranother we've all received birthday cards that started out just thatway.

This card, however, was addressed to Ella Mae Ritchie and it was just a little different. This card was signed "George and Barbara Bush."

If you would like one just like it then you'll have to do whatElla Mae did -- have a 100th birthday.

Just two days after Ella Mae Ritchie bowled in her regular Thursday morning league at Thunderhead Lanes in Westminster, she attended a birthday party in her honor at Mount Olive Church in Mount Airy.

More than 80 people were thereto see Ella Mae receive her

birthday greeting card from the President and the First Lady of the United States as well as the plaque from the Golden Age Home where Ella Mae resides. That heart-shaped plaque said: "Special people can never be forgotten, not just on special days but on all days."

Ritchie's daughter, Ella Mae Boone, said "It was just great, she enjoyed it so very much."

Gail Porter, spokeswoman for the Golden Age Guest Home, made sure that Ella Mae also received a bouquet of red roses on her birthday.

Ella Mae Ritchie didn't begin her bowling career until she was 98, but now she never misses a chance to bowl. And she never loses her sense of humor; this lady simply sparkles with warmth and good humor.

"Granny is never grumpy," Garlen Smith, a volunteer at the Golden Age Guest Home, said. "She is always smiling, always happy."

Smith should know; the retired Washington police officer has been a fixture at the Golden Age Guest Home for five years now.

Oh, and how was her bowling game two days before her 100th birthday?

Just a 71. And how was your day?


"You're never too old to bowl," said Ginny Blackowicz, marketing manager for Hampstead Bowling Center. "And you're never too young to bowl."

Blackowicz was speaking about the oldest bowler at Hampstead, Alberta Welty. She is 86 and never misses her league, the Thursday Night Ladies League. This year, Welty decided to bowl through thesummer and joined a league to do just that.

"Well, my average dropped a little," Welty said. "Last year it was 68, but this year it dropped to 63. Maybe I'm throwing the ball a little slower."

Maybe, but Welty still is a linchpin on the Grandma's Girls team. And she still plays bingo.

And then there's little Ashley Stagner, who just started bowling three weeks ago in a summer league at Hampstead. She lives in Hampstead with her parents, Patty and Danny Stagner.

BothPatty and Danny are bowlers. Patty carries a 106 and Danny has 123 average, so it's little wonder that Ashley started bowling, too.

Ashley carries a 68 average and has a high game of 72. She's easy to spot if you stop in the center when she's bowling -- she's the bowler with a pacifier in her mouth. She has to park it there so she can use both hands to throw the ball.

A duckpin ball can be pretty huge when you've just turned 18 months old.


Doug Burkholder, born and raised in Carroll County and a resident of New Windsor, bowls in three leagues at County Lanes in Westminster: on Wednesday night, the Thursday Men's Trophy and the Friday Good Timers league.

He carriesa 198 average and has rolled games of 300, 297 and 298. His career high set is 766.

Burkholder, a bowler for more than half his 38 years, throws a Hammer or U-Dot bowling ball. Basically, he's a stroker,and on April 12 he stroked the ball for a 739 series at County Lanes.


Tournament notes: The Bowler of the Year Tournament starts at 1 p.m. June 9 at Thunderhead Lanes in Westminster. The event will consist of the fall/winter Bowlers of the Month from each league.

Hampstead Bowling Center will have a Colorama every Saturday night starting 7 p.m. June 22. Bowlers can win cash for strikes and colored pin spare combinations. Cost: $6.

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