PHOENIX – Rep. Gabrielle Giffords turned 41 on Wednesday, five months to the day after she was shot in the head in a Tucson shooting rampage that killed six people.
The Arizona Congresswoman's staff sang her "Happy Birthday" over the phone and sent her a framed cartoon that shows her and astronaut husband Mark Kelly in space, Giffords spokesman C.J. Karamargin said from her office in Tucson.
The drawing, by Omaha World Herald cartoonist Jeff Koterba, was published in April, and shows Kelly and Giffords holding hands, wearing space suits and floating among the stars.
The cartoon reads: "Mark Kelly, Endeavor. Gabrielle Giffords, courage."
Karamargin said that Giffords thanked everyone for the birthday wishes, and spent most of the day continuing with her therapy at a Houston rehab facility where she has been since two weeks after the shooting. "She was very happy," Karamargin said.
A small party also was held in Giffords' hospital room, where "treats outnumbered people," Karamargin said.
Kelly returned June 1 to Earth on space shuttle Endeavor after about two weeks in space in NASA's second-to-last shuttle mission.
About her condition, Karamargin said Giffords was doing great. "She continues to make amazing progress," he said.
In an online column Wednesday for the World-Herald, Koterba said he always has been inspired by astronauts, and that although Giffords "never piloted a rocket, Gabby inspires me to the moon and back."
"Happy birthday, Gabby!" he wrote.
People from across the country and the globe sent birthday messages expressing encouragement and pride to Giffords' Facebook page.
Her staff posted a photo on the page of birthday cards she has been sent by members of the public with the note: "Gabrielle loves all of the birthday msgs! Keep 'em coming."
There were also photos of bouquets of flowers, a cake with chocolate frosting that said "Happy Birthday," and cupcakes.
Koterba wrote that he also drew a cartoon in March that memorialized 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green, one of the six people killed in the Jan. 8 mass shooting in Tucson. Thirteen people, including Giffords, were injured.
Jared Lee Loughner, 22, has pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the shooting and has been declared mentally incompetent to stand trial. He is in a Missouri facility undergoing treatment to restore his mental competency and face the charges.
Koterba's Omaha World-Herald cartoon and column, http://tinyurl.com/3qmdlw9
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