published Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Birthdays a rare celebration for those born on Feb. 29

John Parker, left, holds his daughter Ann in an office at Chattanooga Ballet on Tuesday. John, who was born on Feb. 29 in a leap year, will be "turning 13" this year with his daughter.
John Parker, left, holds his daughter Ann in an office at Chattanooga Ballet on Tuesday. John, who was born on Feb. 29 in a leap year, will be "turning 13" this year with his daughter.
Photo by Doug Strickland.
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Today, John Parker turns 13 -- and so does his daughter, Ann.

"We plan on having a nice cake with two 13s on it," said Parker, a Chattanooga contractor and Leap Year baby who's spent 52 years on earth, yet has only seen his Feb. 29 birthday make 13 calendar appearances.

"I guess I'm looking forward to my teenage years more than I am hers," he joked.

Feb. 29 rolls around because the calendar year is shorter by about six hours than the earth's journey around the sun and adding a day every four years keeps the calendar aligned with the correct seasons. Without Leap Year, July eventually would slide into the middle of winter, and summer heat would blaze in January.

The reasons for correcting the celestial rounding error eluded lifelong Chickamauga resident Sherry Parrish when she was a little girl born on Feb. 29.

"As a kid, I didn't like having a Leap Year birthday," she said.

Parrish had a birthday party every February, but "I didn't understand that I had to wait four years for that birthday to appear on the calendar."

Now, "I wouldn't trade it," she said. "It's a birthday no one forgets. Classmates, co-workers, they always remember me because of my birthday."

Parrish, a dental assistant, has found another advantage in turning 10 today. When her co-workers bring up her birthday, "I keep reminding them that I'm not turning the other number. I'm turning 10. I'm not even going to recognize the big 4-0."

Lifelong Ringgold, Ga., resident Wallace Hall turns 19, or 76, today.

"I bet there aren't 20 people that know I was born on Leap Year," said Wallace, who's had two baseball fields in town named after him.

He and wife Nancy are locally famous as the parents of four sets of twins.

"Everybody knows us in Ringgold. If they don't, they'll say, 'They're the ones that got all the twins.'"

Hall still laughs about the time a teacher called because of something that the "baby" twins, Bryan and Ryan, now 37, said at elementary school.

"Well, next week, we'll be 6, and next month, our daddy will be 10," his sons said. Fearing something might be horribly wrong, the teacher phoned Hall, saying, "We drawed straws to see who called you."

When he explained, the teacher burst out laughing.

"Oh my Lord, you could nearly hear the teacher holler from Ringgold," said Hall, who lives a ways outside of town.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township┬╣s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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