February 28, 2012

Making a leap to celebrate

Justin Williams shares memories of Leap Day birthdays gone by with nephew Clyde Gibson
and neice Haly Ivie. Technically, Haley will turn 10 three years before her uncle.

by Alisa Angelakis/Spokesman staff

Brian Klatt celebrates his 12th birthday today.
The youngest of 10 children, Klatt shares his birthday month with three siblings, but he is the only Leap Day baby in the family – born Feb. 29, 1964.
“It was always kind of weird because people would always tease me, saying 'You don’t get a birthday this year,’” said Klatt, who lives in Redmond. “And of course I always did. But it used to make me feel bad as a kid.”
Older sister Sherri Williams insists that Klatt was always pretty spoiled in their close-knit family.
“He got special treatment ever since he was born because he was an 'oops’ and then he was a leap year baby, too,” she said, shooting him a smile. “He’s still pretty spoiled.”
Williams said Klatt enjoyed stretching out his birthday as long as he could as a child, celebrating on Feb. 28 and March 1.
Klatt agreed, adding, “It does get a lot of attention from people. They think it’s cool.”
One year a friend threw an “accurate birthday years” party for Klatt, which was fun but  “the presents sucked,” he said with a laugh, because they were all for kids.
When Williams suggested throwing a 12-year-old party for him this year, Klatt’s response was, “Don’t you dare.”
He doesn’t have any big plans for this birthday, Klatt said, but he didn’t know what the family had in store.
“I’m getting closer to 50 … to me it’s just a day. I’m easygoing. Just don’t get me toys – unless they’re fun toys.”
• • •
While Klatt was making his debut into the world, longtime Redmond residents Carl and Ginger Vertrees were celebrating their wedding day in Seattle, Wash., where they both grew up. The couple has been married 48 years, today. But, one could say it is only their 12th anniversary.
“We wanted a Saturday near the end of February, and the church was available on that day,” Ginger said. “We didn’t think about the date being any different.”
Carl added, “It just happened. But people started making jokes early on. Most frequently we’ve heard, 'Oh you have to buy an anniversary present only every four years.’  Not so. In reality, three out of four years we can celebrate on either February 28 or March 1 – or both. We usually buy a joint gift for our home, or take a winter vacation. We’ve never been snowbirds, but we do enjoy finding some warm weather during the winter.”
Carl and Ginger met at the University of Washington, living in Alaska for some years where he worked as a newspaper reporter and later as an Armed Forces radio newsman.
“It (Alaska) was small and wet,” she remembers, adding. “I was from the big city.”
Ginger spent some time working for the governor of Alaska, as a secretary in the business operations department. 
The couple had their first daughter a year after moving to Anchorage, just short of their fourth wedding anniversary (or first, depending on how you look at it).
In 1975, Carl became the publisher of the Redmond Spokesman and stayed in that position for 26 years, until his retirement in 2001. Ginger retired from her position in the Community Education Department at Central Oregon Community College in 2003.
The couple has lived in the same Redmond home since 1975.
“We weren’t going to stay here; we were going to move after the girls were out of high school,” Ginger said. “We decided we really like it here. Where else would we go?”
The most memorable anniversary – or non-anniversary – was when their daughters threw a surprise party for them in 1994, Carl said, which was technically their 7 1/2 anniversary.
“We were completely discombobulated,” he said.
• • •
When asked whether he celebrates his birthday on Feb. 28 or March 1 most years, Terrebonne resident Justin Williams hollers, “Both days!” with a hearty laugh.
“It actually works out better now that I’m older,” he said. “I can go to the bar and get free drinks on both days.”
Born Feb. 29, 1976, Justin was the first leap year baby Madras hospital ever had, his mother Loretta said. There was even a story and a photo in the newspaper.
To top off the memorable day, Justin’s dad, Tim, got a speeding ticket on his way to the birth. At the time, he was working 210 miles away.
“He had to be flying because he made it home in no time,” Loretta said.
Tim had a bet with his in-laws that Justin was going to be a girl and he was reluctant to lose. The good-natured nurses went along with Tim’s request and wrapped Justin up in a pink blanket so he could win the bet.
“My dad didn’t know that he was a boy until he got out of the hospital,” Loretta said with a chuckle.
In the two months leading up to Justin’s birth, doctors stopped Loretta’s labor a few times; he was finally born weighing in at 12 pounds, 9 ounces.
“It was like I was pregnant forever, I’ll tell you that,” Loretta said. “He’s pretty special to us, though.”
All three of the Williams children were born on holidays: older sister Jessica on Thanksgiving and younger sister Juliea on Good Friday.
Both girls said they didn’t think it was fair that Justin got more than one birthday growing up.
“I think the most memorable birthday memory I have is sitting there at (Justin’s) birthday party and my water breaking, six weeks early,” Jessica said
That was Feb. 28, 2003. Justin’s niece, Haley, was born the next day, March 1.
“It’s kind of funny,” Haley said. “We usually celebrate together unless it’s his real birthday.” One year, they shared a My Little Pony party.
Technically, she will turn 10 three years before her uncle.
“I’m having a kid birthday this year,” Justin said. “Every birthday I’ve had on the 29th there’s always been little cars or little tractors on the cake, and they always try to get me with those dang candles you can never blow out.”
This year, said his mother, the theme will likely be either Transformers or G.I. Joe.
His father, Tim, added, “We’re trying to get enough people together to give him a spanking for his 9th birthday.”
Smiling, Justin remembers, “Growing up I have this memory of this blanket that my grandma made me, and she wrote my birthday on it. She wrote February 28 because she didn’t quite understand. I still have that blanket.”

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