Sisters celebrating unique bond After five decades, triplets’ relationship closer than ever

Sisters celebrating unique bond After five decades, triplets' relationship closer than ever by David Lias Thursday marked the golden anniversary of one of the most memorable events to ever occur in Vermillion.

And the principles involved in the historic occasion have spent all of this week celebrating.

On Jan. 31, 1952, before fertility drugs, test tube babies and routine reports of multiple births, Carl and Dorothy Walz of Vermillion made big news in a big way.

Mrs. Walz gave birth to triplets � which no doubt was both exciting and a bit stunning, because her physician, Dr. Warren Fairbanks, had suspected she was carrying twins.

The Walz household, which was already a busy place, became the center of attention. The triplets' six brothers, Donald, Allen, Melvin, Marvin, Roger and Jerry, found themselves occupied not only with school and their farm chores.

They became caretakers of their new infant siblings, helping with laundry, feedings and diaper changes.

Janell remembers that their older brothers quite often found themselves pitching in as babysitters for their triplet sisters.

"It was always fun," Janell said. "Melvin made pirate hats out of newspapers and Marvin played train with us, and we sat in chairs and he was the conductor, and Jerry would look through the window and try to scare us.

"I just remember that they would entertain us while Mom and Dad went grocery shopping or Christmas shopping," she said.

The clan has, over the past 50 years, been able to keep its close ties to Vermillion.

Carl, Jerry, Marvin and Melvin Walz still live here.

More important, she said, is the strong family bond that holds the large family together to this day. The three sisters credit their parents, who always put family and friends first.

"I can remember Mom would start cooking at 10:30 in the morning for lunch on the farm," Janell said. "We would have huge meals."

And, if anyone happened to stop by the farm at about the time the noon meal was to be served, there was always room at the table � even though the Walz's dining room table was already crowded with 11 people.

"We had a round oak table with probably six leaves in it all of the time," she said.

The triplets attended Vermillion High School. Ironically, Janet said, she and her two sisters grew closer after they married and went their separate ways after graduating from VHS.

Janet, the wife of David Macy, Vermillion, works for the South Dakota Board of Regents at USD. Janell is married to Steve Manning. The couple lives in Tucson, AZ. She's employed as a secretary with an elementary school there.

Janice, wife of Monty Hartung, lives and works in Sioux Falls.

The three sisters celebrated their 50th birthday Thursday in Tucson at the Mannings' home. They were joined there by their oldest brother, Melvin.

"This week has almost been like Christmas," Janet said. "We've been doing a lot of sight-seeing, and just spending time together. We were very fortunate. We have had a wonderful life together as a family."

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