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Bahr triplets to turn 60; public invited to party

A more recent photo of the triplets. From left are David, Jean and Dan. Submitted Photo

Sixty years ago, two boys and a girl were born at Lutheran Hospital in Bemidji. Perhaps that alone was not terribly unusual, except the three babies were siblings.

The Bahr triplets - David, Jean and Dan - were the first set of triplets to have been born and survived in Bemidji (a previous unrelated set was born but did not survive). Born on Dec. 20, 1950, their mother, Gertrude Bahr, had no idea she was carrying multiples.

Shirley Worth was the nurse's aide on shift that night. She recalled how Dr. Dan McCann - for whom Dan Bahr was named - caught the first baby and then moved to Gertrude's side to begin the post-delivery massage. Instead, he felt another baby. So he delivered a second child. He then returned to her side to, again, massage the mother. And, he found a third baby.

"They were all healthy," Worth said. "It was just wonderful."

Worth, who was 19 at the time, did not think Gertrude delivered especially early or had endured complications during the pregnancy.

"She just thought she was going to have a big baby," she said.

Despite being triplets, all three babies were healthy.

"They were pretty feisty," she said. "They never gave us any problems at all."

Worth recalled that, at the time, the hospital only had two incubators. All three triplets were set into the larger incubator, with the two boys on one side and Jean on the other side, flipped around to face the other direction.

"Every now and then Jeannie would cry and we would know the boys were chomping on her toes again," Worth said.

A local newspaper article announcing McCann's retirement - accompanied by a photo of him with the triplets - stated that the doctor delivered roughly 4,000 babies, equal to one-third of Bemidji's then-12,000 population.

But Worth said the triplets' delivery was always special.

"That was his goal in life, to deliver triplets," Worth said. "And it was a total surprise when it happened."

The community embraced the triplets as soon as they were born. Their parents, the late Peter and Gertrude, already had five older children (and would have one more), so their house needed to be enlarged. And businesses donated funds to cover the triplets' hospital stay.

The triplets, according to a newspaper article, stayed in the incubators for 30 days and stayed in the hospital for another 30 days. The cost for delivery was $108.20, and the triplets garnered an additional $13.50 each day they were in the hospital.

The Bahr Triplets Trust Fund was set up. Area businesses each contributed $13.50 to pay hospital costs for one day, according to a Dec. 23, 1958, Bemidji Daily Pioneer story.

The local Jaycees organized a paper drive with area school children, collecting 25 tons of paper, the newspaper reported.

"Langdon Bottling Co. contributed a truck with which to haul the paper to Minneapolis, where it was sold for more than $500, which was turned over to the Bahr Triplets Trust Fund," the article stated.

Members of the Carpenters' Union of Bemidji volunteered their services to construct an addition to the Bahr's home on Irvine Avenue.

Additional fundraising efforts included the donations of revenue from a movie. And the family also received daily contributions of food, clothing and baby accessories.

"A grand total of $1,500 was collected for the Bahr Triplet Trust Fund, their home was enlarged to include two bedrooms, and in general, the triplets were given a chance for a good start in life," stated a newspaper article written about the triplets' eighth birthday party.

The triplets became known, according to the newspapers, as "Bemidji's symbols of Christmas."

Dan said the family always was thankful for the support of the public.

"They had the paper drive, to help out," he said. "They built an addition on the house."

"We always knew that the whole community got together and helped," said Jean (Bahr) Ulve said. "They had the fund and the drive and all of that. We always knew what the community had done for us. We were very proud of that."

The community is invited to celebrate the triplets' 60th birthdays at a party at 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 17, at the American Legion.

"They were always there for us," Jean said. "We always had somebody looking out for us."

David said Bemidji was a small town at the time, and while everyone knew everyone, they also watched out for one another.

"It was like one big family," he said.

While growing up, the triplets were close to one another, especially, Dan and David.

"It was the boy thing," Dan said. "We always did things together.

David said the kids all spent hours at the park along 11th Street. They would be released from school, go to the park, return home for supper and then go back to the park and play until dark. They would pass time playing softball, football or basketball, playing on the jungle gym or the merry-go-round. They played a lot of croquet in the summertime.

"Times were simple," he said. "We went outside and played."

"I tried to follow Danny and David wherever they went," Jean said. "I was the tattler, always telling where they were and what they were doing."