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Kirchner Triplets ’42 Celebrate 90th

Marguerite Kirchner Miller ’42, Catherine Kirchner Roth ’42, and Frances Kirchner Hornberger ’42 celebrated their 90th birthday, and were featured in Newsday. The Depression-era children grew up in Floral Park, N.Y., and came to William Smith College together. Each woman met her husband at HWS.

The three recently returned to campus during Reunion Weekend 2009.

They celebrated their birthday in New Hyde Park.

The full article about the women’s lives as it appeared in Newsday follows.


Newsday
In Floral Park, triplets celebrate turning 90

Jennifer Sinco Kelleher • August 21, 2010

They were born in a third-floor apartment in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn on Aug. 23, 1920, surprising their parents and the doctor that there were three babies.

First came Catherine, weighing 6 pounds, followed by Frances and Marguerite, weighing 4 ½ pounds each.

Back then, the chances of all three Kirchner girls surviving nine decades were slim. But on Saturday, they will gather in New Hyde Park with family and friends from across the country at their 90th birthday bash.

On Friday, they sat wearing matching blouses in Frances Hornberger’s Floral Park home and reminisced about their lives, which started with their petite mother not realizing she was pregnant with triplets.

“Frankly, I can’t believe we’re 90,” said Catherine Roth of upstate Batavia.
According to the Guiness World Records, the oldest living triplets are 96-year-old German sisters. The Kirchner sisters have been trying to verify whether they’re the oldest living triplets in the United States.

The Kirchner triplets grew up in Floral Park, near Belmont Park, and graduated in 1938 from Sewanhaka High School. There, they were known as the “trips.” They dressed alike and sewed their own clothes, until they got to college and started swapping outfits.

Together, they attended William Smith College in upstate Geneva, where they met their husbands.

“We were Depression children,” said Marguerite Miller, who now lives in Allentown, Pa., adding that their parents wouldn’t have been able to afford sending the triplets to college. A high school French teacher helped them get college scholarships, Miller said. They graduated from college in 1942 and all went on to become schoolteachers.

Hornberger later became a librarian at the Floral Park Public Library, while her sisters stopped working. Hornberger still volunteers at a local thrift shop and helps arrange rides for neighborhood seniors.

The sisters, with matching short, gray hairdos, see each other only once a year. On Friday, they joked about how people couldn’t tell them apart while they were growing up.

Hornberger recalled that she dated Miller’s husband first. “Whether or not he mixed us up, I don’t know,” she said with a laugh.

“The changes we’ve seen in 90 years,” Miller said, noting that while they don’t use the Internet, they all have cell phones.

They remembered moments in history from selling milkshakes at the 1939 World’s Fair to the first man walking on the moon, the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 terror attacks. “A lot has happened in 90 years, let’s face it,” Roth said.

“Those were some bleak years,” Miller said of the Depression, shaking her head.

“Today isn’t much better,” Roth interjected of the current economic downturn.

Hornberger attributes their longevity to good genes and an athletic lifestyle. They grew up playing tennis and hockey, Miller played golf and tennis into her 80s and Roth was a longtime swimming coach. Hornberger said she’s amazed they all walk without using walkers.

Between them, there are 15 children, 20 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. They are the only triplets in the family and their husbands all predeceased them. They have an older sister, Grace Haddad, 93 of Quogue.

Hornberger’s daughter, Ruth Hornberger, 58, of Floral Park, said she’s always amazed to see that the triplets have the same mannerisms and buy similar fashions even though they live far apart. “Now we know the difference,” she said. “When we were kids, we couldn’t tell the difference.”

Ruth Hornberger noted that her grandmother, who kept a diary of the triplets’ lives, downplayed how unique they were. “My grandmother didn’t want them to be an oddity,” she said.

1920
Politics: Woodrow Wilson is president, U.S. women cast their first national ballot.
New York City: Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association meets
International: The first assembly of the League of Nations is held in Geneva.
Music: “Avalon” by Al Jolson, Buddy DeSylva and Vincent Rose is one of the top songs in the nation.
Movies: “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” directed by John S. Robertson, makes film debut.
Sports: Babe Ruth plays his first game for the Yankees after being sold to them by the Red Sox; the first game of Negro National League baseball is played in Indianapolis.
Alcohol: Prohibition goes into effect.
Food: A gallon of milk costs 35 cents.

 

The photo above of the triplets with President Gearan was taken during Reunion 2009.