- The Washington Times - Monday, January 13, 2003

Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Lt. Gov.-elect Michael S. Steele began a week of inaugural events yesterday by celebrating their humble beginnings in their hometowns.
Accompanied by their families, they began the day celebrating Mass at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Prince George's County, where Mr. Steele has been a longtime parishioner.
They then joined a parade in their honor in Mr. Ehrlich's hometown of Arbutus, a working-class community just outside the Baltimore Beltway.
A large crowd lined the streets to welcome Mr. Ehlrich home.
It was about the same size turnout Arbutus has for its Fourth of July parade.
At the Mass, the Rev. J. William Hines, pastor at St. Mary's, asked that Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. Steele remember to serve the needs of all Marylanders after they take office.
"My hope is that they will care for the poor of the state of Maryland," Mr. Hines said after the homily.
At a reception following the service, Mr. Ehrlich answered the priest's call by restating his commitment to aid the disadvantaged through increased state funding of faith-based providers.
In keeping with the day's hometown-boy-made-good theme, the congregation's warm feelings for Mr. Steele were evident.
Mr. Hines said he was proud of Mr. Steele's rise to become the first black elected to statewide office, but said he would be losing a great volunteer at the church.
Mr. Steele regularly gives readings at services, his wife serves on the church finance committee, and their sons are altar boys.
"Everything he does will be influenced by his faith," Mr. Hines said. "He is a wonderful parishioner."
In Arbutus, the old-fashioned parade featured the Halethorpe American Legion color guard, classic cars, fire engines, Dixieland and bagpipe bands, a drum squad and baton-twirling majorettes.
Mr. Ehrlich walked the short parade route, moving from one side of the street to the other to greet supporters, many of whom remember him from his boyhood days.
He walked in the back of the parade line with Kendel, his wife and his family.
As Mr. Ehrlich mounted a reviewing stand in front of Leon's Bar and Restaurant, the street filled with supporters waving flags and homemade signs.
"To understand me, you have to understand Arbutus and friendship," said Mr. Ehrlich, who will take the oath of governor Wednesday. "When you understand long friendships, then you understand this town."
When somebody in the crowd shouted, "You're the son of Arbutus," he responded, "I will take that label, and wear it proudly."
The cold and wind did not deter Mr. Ehlrich's hometown fans.
"I'm here because I support Bob," said Mary Wolf, 30, a teacher in Arbutus. "He's a hometown boy. I think he is a good role model for the kids in the community. He brings spirit and morals to Arbutus."
The parade and Mass were the start of a series of events leading to the inauguration in two days.
On Saturday, Mr. Ehlrich hosted a children's event at Howard Community College, where more than 300 children came and met the governor-elect in a carnival atmosphere.
Tonight, Mr. Ehrlich will attend an inaugural jam at Hammerjack's in Baltimore.

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