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Former Bemidji man notes 15th leap birthday

Daniel Leister turns 60 today, but the former Bemidji man says he feels like 15.

And, in a way, he is 15.

"I've been lucky over the years," said Leister, who now lives in Hawley, Minn. "People don't think I look my age."

Leister is a Leap Year baby so celebrating his birthday on the actual date he was born only happens once every four years.

He still recalls Bemidji businesses giving away presents to Leap Year babies, including one from Don's Tire when Leister was about 8.

"He gave away a sack of marbles," Leister said Tuesday. "It was like gold. You were the richest kid in town."

A jokester, Leister sometimes was the subject of lighthearted jabs.

"My nieces and nephews picked on me that they were older than me," he said.

Leister grew up in Bemidji and graduated from Bemidji State University with a degree in industrial arts. He enjoys fishing and hunting, and owns land north of Bemidji and visits frequently.

He said he realized at a young age that Leap Year birthdays were unique. His classmates all remembered his birthday.

And his mother was always good about treating Leister and his siblings to a special treat when their birthdays rolled around on the calendar.

"We were big ice cream eaters," said his sister, Marie Lamon, 52, of Bemidji. "We always got a half gallon of our favorite ice cream."

She recalls giving her older brother stuffed frogs on his birthday.

"Now he's got all these frogs his little grandchildren can play with," she said.

Lamon said others find her brother has a special spirit and charm. "He has a lot of friends and family that care about him," she said.

But growing up, because his birth date arrived every fourth year, Leister has celebrated his birthday on all different days. Lamon said sometimes the celebration would stretch a few days.

For his part, Leister isn't planning a big celebration this year. He hopes a friend can visit, joining him and his wife of 40 years for church services at Hawley Lutheran Church, where Leister serves on the church council.

Winter weather, though, could delay any celebration.

Leister, a transportation generalist with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, could spend the day plowing roads.

"The storm might throw a lot of kinks into things," said Leister, who has worked with MnDOT for 36 years.

Regardless of the weather, Leister is embracing life and his birthday.

"I'm excited about turning 60," he said. "My health is good."

Steve Wagner

Grand Forks Herald Editor Steve Wagner can be reached at 701.780.1104 and He joined the Herald in April 2013, and previously worked as editor at the Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer and in several roles -- including news director, investigative reporter and crime reporter - at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. His reporting experience includes coverage of Dru Sjodin's disappearance and the federal death penalty case for her murderer, Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., along with several investigative projects. In his spare time, Wagner is an avid runner and occasionally writes about his experiences on his blog, Addicted to Running.

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