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For those born on leap day, it’s a birthday worth waiting for

By , Columbian Education Reporter
Published: February 28, 2016, 6:01am
12 Photos
Scott Marjury
Scott Marjury Photo Gallery

Michael David Brown of Vancouver faced a dilemma as he approached his 21st birthday. He wanted to avoid trouble with the law over the timing of his first legal drink in a bar, but when you’re a leap day baby, nothing is simple.

Brown was born on Feb. 29 in a leap year. But the year he turned 21, there wasn’t a Feb. 29.

Could he take his first drink on Feb. 28, or did he have to wait until March 1 to celebrate?

“I searched all over Google and even called the police department,” Brown said. “No one could answer my question, so I played it safe. I went to a bar where I knew the bartender.”

Tomorrow, Feb. 29, is leap day, and Brown will celebrate not only his 28th birthday, but also his 7th leap day birthday. He joins many other Clark County residents born on leap day. They’re known as “leapers” or “leaplings.”

Did You Know?

• According to Irish lore, women can propose marriage on Feb. 29, leap day. The tradition supposedly began in fifth century Ireland when St. Brigid of Kildare “bitterly complained to St. Patrick that women had to wait far too long for men to propose,” according to the website www.irishcentral.com/.

Leap day birthdays

Leapers in Clark County shared their birthday stories with The Columbian.

Jeanette Fukui Dansie of Washougal and her daughter, Lisa Daley, celebrated their 8th birthdays together. In chronological years, Dansie was 32.

Carole Gamoy’s son, Cameron Foster, turned 10 in 2003. That’s the year she turned 39, but was only 9 by leap birthdays.

“My son said, ‘Mom, you have to mind me now. I’m your elder.’ We have had a few good laughs over that one. He’ll always be older than me,” Gamoy said.

When Marilyn Wheeler from Camas turned 16 in leap years (64 in chronological years), her friends dressed as teenagers from her era — in sweaters and bobby socks — and took her to breakfast and called her a teenager.

“I certainly didn’t look like a teenager!” Wheeler laughed. “The next year, I tried to tell my grandchildren I was 17, and they said, ‘No, Grandma. You aren’t.’ A leap day birthday brings a lot of questions. People look at me with astonishment. It was an unusual thing to carry throughout my life.”

Below some Clark County leapers share their thoughts on having a Feb. 29 birthday.

Macaela Rien Andre

Chronological age: 16

Leap year age: 4

Macaela, who attends Ridgefield High School, has a small birthday party with her immediate family every year and one with friends every leap year. She says her most memorable birthday is “every leap year birthday — because I get two cakes.”

This year, she’s turning 16 and celebrating her leap day birthday at her grandparents’ beach house.

“My parents say that I can’t get my driver’s license until I’m 64, because then I’d be 16 in leap years,” she said.

Penny Aurand

Chronological age: 72

Leap year age: 18

“This year, for her 18th birthday, we are going to Hawaii for a 10-day family vacation,” said her husband, Rusty Aurand. “Now that she is legal to marry, we’re going to renew our vows. On the off leap years, she sticks me with two days of birthdays — the end of February and the 1st of March.”

Michael David Brown

Chronological age: 28

Leap year age: 7

Michael David Brown said he is unsure of this year’s birthdays plans. “My wife always keeps it a secret, but she always has something up her sleeve,” he said. “I do know we are going to Mexico to celebrate a friend’s wedding on March 1, so I plan on having my own party involving tequila, goggles and a Mexican sombrero.”

Brown’s advice for other leapers: “If anyone ever tries to make fun of your intelligence, size, or success, let them know how well you are doing for a preteen.”

Roy Jay Brothers

Chronological age: 88

Leap year age: 22

Brothers’ family is renting the Barberton Grange to throw a big party for him today. His son, Corey Brothers, is flying in from New York City to surprise him. Brothers celebrated his 21st (84th) birthday in Hawaii, said his son, Cameron Brothers.

“On my second leap birthday, when I was 8, we lived in Portland. It was during the Depression,” Roy Jay Brothers said. “The Oregon Journal put our name in the paper with a photo. We got to visit the Paramount Theater on Broadway. That was really neat. I celebrate every year on the 28th. The birthdays on the 29th are the big ones. You might think a Feb. 29 birthday is a disadvantage, but it really isn’t. You really get to enjoy it every four years.”

Brothers, who was a school teacher for many years, always taught a lesson about leap year.

“My kids were always interested in knowing someone with a Feb. 29 birthday,” said Brothers, who was superintendent at Washington State School for the Blind for 17 years.

Jeanette Fukui Dansie

Chronological age: 64

Leap year age: Sweet 16

“This year we are celebrating big, as this year marks Mom’s Sweet 16,” said her daughter, Lisa Daley.

“My daughter and two sisters are taking me to New York City,” said Dansie. “I have always wanted to go there and see the Statue of Liberty. This year, that wish comes true. As you can see, I have an amazing family.”

On her 12th leap year birthday, Dansie’s family threw her a surprise party with an Elvis Presley theme in a local hotel.

“At least 75 family and friends dressed in Elvis-era costumes — poodle skirts, lamb chop side burns. This included my 70-year-old parents,” said Dansie. “Elvis made an appearance and serenaded me with ‘Love Me Tender.’

“The hotel billboard read: ‘Happy 12th birthday, Jeanette.’ The workers said they wondered what all the hoopla was about for a 12-year-old.”

Raenell Dawn, aka “The Leap Day Lady”

Chronological age: 56

Leap year age: 14

“I have been spreading Leap Year Day Awareness through a birthday club since 1988. I know. Wow is right! 28 years ago! Or 7 leap years!,” said Raenell Dawn, co-founder of the Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies. “In keeping with educating the masses about leap day, this year I will be celebrating my birthday reading children’s books with a leap day theme at the Leap Into Literacy Night at an elementary school in Salem, Ore.,” said Dawn, who also is known as The Leap Day Lady.

Learn more about leap day babies at http://leapyearday.com/.

Carole Gamoy

Chronological age: 52

Leap year age: 13

“My most memorable birthday was the birthday party I gave myself after my divorce. I hadn’t had a birthday party since I was 21. I thought it was a little awkward throwing myself a party, but it was wonderful. That wasn’t a leap year birthday, but it was the best birthday I had ever had.”

Matt Gough

Chronological age: 20

Leap year age: 5

This year, Matt Gough will celebrate over dinner with his family. His birthday gift is a trip to Alaska in May, said his mom, Kim Heesch. When Gough returns, he’ll enter the U.S. Air Force.

Floyd Haffner

Chronological age: 84

Leap year age: 21

“Since it’s his 21st birthday, we’ve been teasing that we’ll take him out for a beer!” said his daughter, Colleen Lines.

Sylvia Hovey

Chronological age: 76

Leap year age: 19

“I’ll be 76, but only 19 in actual birthdays. That means I can enjoy being a teenager for four more years before I have to start acting like an adult,” said Hovey. “I definitely have a party every year. My most memorable celebration was a Sweet 16 surprise party thrown by my husband, Rich, when I turned 64. He pulled it off with the help of our neighbors and good friends, Joyce and Dick Malin, who let him store all the food and supplies at their house. While I was out for a birthday dinner, Rich decorated our house with Sweet 16 banners and balloons. Everyone was hidden in our family room when I arrived. He even had appropriate music lyrics like ‘Sweet 16’ and ‘When I’m 64’ by the Beatles.”

Elise Keen

Chronological age: 4

Leap year age: 1

“Her mother and I have been talking up the fact she’s only got a ‘real’ birthday every four years. Not sure it’s sunk in yet,” said her dad, Chris Keen of Camas. “That will probably only hit when she’s 8 or 12.”

This year, Elise will celebrate her first “real” birthday with a party with two other friends who are three days older. Then later, the family will travel to Elise’s favorite seaside town, Cannon Beach, Ore., to celebrate her birthday, said her dad.

Scott Marjury

Chronological age: 44

Leap year age: 11

“My most memorable birthday I went to the beach with family and I celebrated my 10th birthday (40th) with Aunt Marelene. She was a leap year birthday turning 16 (64). It was cool to have the same birthday as her.”

Aidan Murano

Chronological age: 12

Leap year age: 3

“We celebrate Aidan’s birthday every year at least by letting him pick a restaurant for dinner and bring a friend, but do an extended celebration which we like to call “Aidan-palooza” on leap years, spreading the fun over a few days and having a party of some kind,” said his mom, Lori-Ann Marano.

“When he was little, we would add Feb. 29 to the calendar and then just jump to March 2nd. Now, he chooses which day to celebrate based on which one is closer to the weekend usually, or his mood.”

This year’s Aidan-palooza includes going with friends to the movies with pizza and cupcakes afterward on Saturday, a family dinner at a restaurant Sunday and cake and snacks on Monday with the boys who come to their house for their church’s middle school boys’ group, his mom said.

Kathleen “Kitty” Pearson

Chronological age: 36

Leap year age: 9

Pearson’s arrival at 12:31 a.m. Feb. 29, 1980, at Bess Kaiser Hospital made her the first leap day baby born in Portland.

Colton Peters

Chronological age: 4

Leap year age: 1

“Colton was due March 1, and we kept hoping he would come any day except leap day,” said his mom, Lindsay Peters. “Of course, he came in the afternoon on the 29th. We joke that we jinxed ourselves, but we’re glad his birthday is so unique. This year we’ll celebrate with a pizza party and a trip to Great Wolf Lodge for his first ‘real’ birthday. He is very excited and has been calling himself ‘the birthday boy’ for two weeks now.”

James Schrom II

Chronological age: 44

Leap year age: 11

“Every once in a while, in this case every four years, very special people enter our lives on leap day,” wrote Summer Murphy about her brother, James Schrom II. “In 1988, when he turned 16, The Columbian wrote an article about him titled ‘Bay soph has fourth birthday.’ I remember that day, because my mom surprised James and rented a limo to take him to school. Even my other brothers and I were allowed to ride in the limo with him. We thought it was so cool.”

This year, Schrom’s family has planned a surprise party based on “The Amazing Race” TV show because it’s Schrom’s favorite program. On Saturday, Schrom, his family and friends traveled around Vancouver deciphering clues and doing challenges — from throwing darts, bowling and more. They ordered “Amazing Race” clue envelopes online from the TV show, and Schrom’s father, James Schrom, dressed as Walter from the TV show “Breaking Bad” and distributed clues to the six teams.

Tina Shreves

Chronological age: 27

Leap year age: 7

“A few friends and I are planning a birthday party any 7-year-old would be jealous of — a sleep-over princess party.”

Pauline Pearl Derr Soha

Chronological age: 88

Leap year age: 22

Soha celebrates her birthday every year with family and friends. This year about 15 of them will gather. In her younger years Soha and her husband, Clyde Soha, were very competitive dancers who won many dance contests in the area. They also were the original owners of Soha Signs.

“I have had the good fortune of having family and good friends who come together to celebrate my birthdays. They almost always involve laughter and sharing and, of course, good food. Just all of us coming together makes the day — leap year or not — special.”

Amy Thielman

Chronological age: 44

Leap year age: 11

“I do have a birthday celebration every year, generally on March 1, but I try to have a bigger celebration on the leap years,” Thielman said. “My favorite birthday destination so far was going scuba diving on the island of Bonaire (Caribbean Netherlands). This year, I am going to Las Vegas with some of my favorite gal pals, and we’re leaving the kids and husbands at home.”

Leap day facts

 Feb. 29 is leap day.

 Leap day occurs every four years, except in century years that cannot be evenly divided by 400, to square our Gregorian calendar with the 365.2422-day solar year.

 Odds of being born on leap day: 1:1,461.

 Learn more at http://leapyearday.com/.

Marilyn Wheeler

Chronological age: 80

Leap year age: 20

“I came from a farm family. There were no big celebrations, but my mother always made a cake,” Wheeler said. “If it wasn’t a leap year, my brothers would run down our lane after school, grab my birthday cake and hide it because they said I didn’t have a real birthday that year. My father came in the house and made my brothers give up the cake. When I got older, I paid them back by telling stories on them to their families.”

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