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Published: Sunday, 2/24/2008

February '08's leap year babies

BY ANN WEBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Time marches on, usually.

But every four years, time loosens up. In a generous mood, it gives us an extra day:

366 instead of 365.

This is one of them a leap year, with a square on the calendar for Feb. 29 and for most of us that extra day will be eagerly anticipated simply because it falls on a Friday, gateway to the weekend.

If you were born on a Feb. 29, though, it means you ll be able to celebrate your birthday for real five days from now, for the first time since 2004.

It works like this, according to the National Institute of Standards & Technology: Leap years are necessary because the actual length of a year is 365.242

days, not 365 days, as commonly stated. Basically, leap years occur every four years, and years that are evenly divisible by four (2008, for instance) have 366 days.

The exception to the rule involves century years. Those are leap years only if they re divisible by 400.

I felt kind of gypped growing up, admitted Jaimee Briner of Perrysburg, who was born on Feb. 29, 1980. She comes from a big family, she explained, and her siblings had a day every year to say It s my birthday.

Miss Briner has had that luxury only six times. She ll be 28 on Friday her seventh birthday.

But Dorothy Bates Neiling of Fremont, who will celebrate her 18th birthday turning 72 on Friday said she never felt cheated.

Everyone always felt sorry for me because I didn t actually have a birthday every year, she said. I liked all the attention.

And Pat Pillarelli of southwest Toledo, who will celebrate her 14th birthday this year (56), points out that it s one that people don t forget.

I ll get a lot of calls, she said. People I haven t heard from in years, but they remember that Feb. 29 is my birthday. I think it s kind of cool.

Here s another plus: women born on Feb. 29 don t have to lie about their age. The fractured math of leap year does it for them.

Janet Stoeckley of Sylvania will be 21 this year.

I always tell everyone I m younger than my daughters, she said. They re 59, 57, 53, and 46.

Leap day babies sometimes called leapers, leaplings, or 29ers get to prank people about their age, too.

Kelley Scheich of Petersburg, Mich., used to drive a school bus, and I d always tell the kids they were older than me. They d say nuh-uh. Then I d have them do the math.

Brooke Ann Johnson celebrates her first birthday, turning 4. Brooke Ann Johnson celebrates her first birthday, turning 4.
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Ms. Scheich, who celebrates her 12th birthday on Friday (48), also can tell people that she graduated from high school at the age of 4 , got married at 5 , and had her first baby at 5 .

Former West Toledoan Bill Koch, now of Manitou Beach, Mich., jokes that he s been sleeping with his wife, Carol, since she was 5.

Now she s finally going to be legal, he adds.

As she approaches her 18th birthday (72), Mrs. Koch said she thinks her

family has more fun with it than she does.

Driving to the grocery store on her 10th birthday, for example, she spied a Happy Birthday billboard at Westwood Avenue and Bancroft Street from her husband and

four children.

Another perk: she got her picture in the newspaper for her first birthday, at age 4.

Ms. Scheich did, too, in the paper in Battle Creek, Mich., where she was born. There were seven babies born that day, she said, and each one of them got a birthday cake from a local company every year until they turned 13.

Kelsie Langenderfer was the first baby born in Lucas County on Feb. 29, 1996, said her father, Jeff Langenderfer of the Swanton area. Her leap baby bonanza included a newspaper article and photo, and $80 worth of pizza coupons, he said.

Pat Carter of South Toledo, who s coming up on her 17th birthday (68), remembers that all the kids in Union Elementary School in Maumee sang happy birthday to her when she turned 8.

Maybe that made up for the 13th birthday that she lost years later while crossing the International Dateline.

I flew to New Zealand, leaving on the 28th, and arriving on the first of March, Mrs. Carter said.

Born in her parents home on West John Street in Maumee at 12:15 a.m. on Feb. 29, 1940, Mrs. Carter said she was the first leap day baby to arrive in the area that year. Her achievement was duly reported sort of.

I was in the newspaper as Libby Jo McMurray, she said. Then her parents changed their minds and named her Patricia.

Some of this year s leaplings face a double dose of birthdays that stand as emotional as well as chronological milestones.

Scott Ormsby of Sylvania will be 40 this year on his 10th birthday. He said he hasn t planned any major celebration.

Mr. Ormsby added that his 9-year-old son, Adam, is looking ahead to next year, when he ll be 10 and we ll be the same age.

On off years, leaplings have their choice of celebrating their birthday on Feb. 28 or March 1 or both.

Richard Creque of Napoleon, who will celebrate his 13th birthday (52) on Friday, said that, In my 20s I would go out and paint the town red on the 28th and then on March 1 I d go out and give it a second coat.

Since then, It s no big deal. I just celebrate it whenever it s convenient.

Rose Stevens, who lived in Perrysburg before moving to the Swan Pointe Care Center, has been known to celebrate on both days, too. In the off years we get a kick out of celebrating on the 28th and March 1 and try to frequent restaurants that give free dinners on your birthday, said her daughter, Polly Fitzwater of Maumee. She usually gets to eat free on both nights at two different restaurants.

Mrs. Stevens will celebrate her 20th birthday (80) this week.

Mrs. Fitzwater once asked her mother what it was like to have a birthday that doesn t exist three years out of four. It used to bother her, she said. Then we started having fun with it.

One of the most memorable celebrations was a Sweet 16 party when Mrs. Stevens turned 64. Guests dressed as they would have on their 16th birthday, Mrs. Fitzwater explained via e-mail.

We had hippies, flower children, jocks, nerds, bouffant hairdos with cashmere sweaters and strands of pearls, bikers, and rockers.

Birthdays aren t such a big deal anymore, said Becky Ellis of Sylvania, but she admits she s excited about this one, her 15th, because I m turning 60 and I m still walking and talking.

Ms. Ellis said she and her sister who was born on Feb. 28, just five hours shy of being a leaper, too will celebrate their birthdays during a three-day weekend at the Holiday Inn French Quarter in Perrysburg: Thursday for her birthday, Friday for my birthday, and Saturday to rest.

The on-again, off-again Feb. 29 causes some occasional confusion for leap year babies. Some say there have been occasions, when they ve been asked at a bank or store to give their birth date, that they ve been told there is no Feb. 29. One said that even government documents have come back with a notation to verify the Feb. 29 birth date. And what do you put on a driver s license if it s going to expire in a year when there s no Feb. 29? Some put March 1.

Brooke Ann Johnson won t worry about such things for many years. She s celebrating her first birthday Friday, turning 4.

She doesn t really know what s going on, said her mother, Bonita Johnson of Sylvania Township. We ve always celebrated the last day of February, the 28th. I wanted to keep it in her birthday month.

Recalling an event she attended at which people were asked to stand up and share something about themselves that s special, Mrs. Johnson pointed out that because of her leap birthday, Brooke will always have something to say about herself that s different.

That goes double or triple for some families.

Jaye Baum-Gangwer of Pemberville said her twin daughters, Jimmi and Kerri Gangwer, will be 16 on Friday.

They also have a distant cousin who will be 16 on Feb. 29, she added. That s Brittany Gangwer, who lives near Risingsun, Ohio.

And Beth Smotherman of West Toledo says her granddaughter, Cassidy Lemle of Erie, Mich., was born on leap day, 2000, which was the 20th birthday (80 years) of Mrs. Smotherman s uncle, Carl Hoffman, who lived in West Toledo.

Uncle Carl has since passed, but not before he turned 21, Mrs. Smotherman said.

This year, as Cassidy turns 8 although she tells everyone she ll be 2 she ll be able to take treats to her classmates at Mason Central Elementary in Erie for the first time on her real birthday, Mrs. Smotherman said.

A real third birthday party also is in store for Morgan Guise of Wauseon, who s going to be 12. We re going to have a sleep-over and watch some movies and stuff, said the sixth-grade honor roll student at Burr Road Middle School.

She s got mixed feelings about being a leaper baby. I think it s pretty cool because I have a special birthday on a special day, but it bums me out because my friends all get regular birthdays.

The daughter of Richard and Shirley Guise, Morgan has herself to blame or credit for arriving on a Feb. 29. I was six days late, she said.

George Kendrick of West Toledo admitted that he once forgot about his Feb. 29 birthday during a trip south.

I don t celebrate like a lot of people. I thought about it on my way back, and it had passed, he said with a chuckle.

But on the brink of 96, Mr. Kendrick celebrates every day.

I m a lucky man to be here, he said.

Contact Ann Weber at: aweber@theblade.comor 419-724-6126.



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