By THOMAS J. SHEERAN, Associated Press Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) - Bob Hope's hometown and extended family celebrated his 100th birthday Thursday with two large cakes and the renaming of a theater district street in his honor.
"He was always promoting Cleveland," said the entertainer's great nephew, Bob Hope, 50, of suburban Bainbridge. "He always called Cleveland his hometown."
Hope, born in London in 1903, moved to Cleveland with his family as a 4-year-old.
In Cleveland, he boxed in the Golden Gloves tournament, sold shoes in a department store, delivered bakery items, watched the Indians through a hole in the fence at the old League Park and developed a love for the stage and movies.
"I think he never forgot where he came from, starting from virtually nothing and working his way from East 105th and Euclid selling newspapers to getting started in vaudeville to radio to movies and so forth," Hope's great nephew said.
About 30 family members, including Hope's nephew, Milton Hope, 84, led about 300 people in singing "Happy Birthday" at an outdoor street renaming ceremony.
Milton Hope thanked the crowd and accepted a duplicate street sign. "He would say, 'Keep it sweet and short and don't try to be funny,'" Milton Hope said.
Milton Hope talked by phone with Hope's wife, Dolores, on Tuesday, her 94th birthday, according to Milton Hope's son, Bob Hope.
"They were talking about my dad, the oldest person alive who knows Bob the longest. He's 84 and he's known him since he was born, so he's known him for 84 years," the entertainer's great nephew said.
The ceremony was at a street-corner Playhouse Square park at East 14th Street. The block was renamed Memory Lane-Bob Hope Way, invoking the memory of his trademark song, "Thanks for the Memories."
Ray Fabian, 71, an Army veteran and retired truck driver from nearby Northfield, said military people loved Hope for entertaining them in combat zones around the world.
"He came to the people up front where they needed to see somebody and get some laughs, see the young ladies to carry on," said Fabian, who never saw Hope while in the military.
"With Bob being there, he was one of the greatest. He made everybody laugh, and I thought that was the greatest thing," Fabian said.
The city's Hope Memorial Bridge, which opened in 1932 as the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge across the Cuyahoga River, was rebuilt in 1980-1983 and renamed in honor of Hope family members who were stone masons, according to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.
In northwest Ohio, workers at the Lima Army Tank Plant dedicated a new Abrams M1A2 tank to Hope on Thursday. They put a plaque inside that read "tanks for the memories."
"He brought a lot of happiness to the troops," said Dan Wilges, a tank plant worker who saw one of Hope's performances in 1968 while serving in Vietnam. "I wish he could still do it."
Hope has a legacy in Cincinnati, where the Bob Hope House was founded in 1962 as a group home for troubled boys. He often made fund-raising stops in Cincinnati to benefit the charity.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)