Leap year babies celebrate in style

Sunday, February 26, 2012
Phillip Dugger of Sikeston, Mo., said he still likes working in his yard at age 92, but he would like to find where his tiller is leaking oil. He was born Feb. 29, 1920, a leap year baby, in Mississippi. (Fred Lynch)

Cape Girardeau resident Todd Morris is turning the big 40 this February, but technically he's only celebrated 10 actual birthdays.

Morris was born on Feb. 29, 1972, and according to the modern Gregorian calendar, he's only turning 10. Since it takes a bit more than 365 days for the Earth to revolve around the sun, an extra day is added every four years so the internationally accepted?calendar can play catch-up.

Leap years were first introduced more than 2,000 years ago with the transition from the Roman calendar to the Julian calendar. There are more than 10,000 people registered with the Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies, or "Leapers" as they are referred to.

Morris said he hasn't met many other people in his lifetime who share the same birthday.

"I had an art teacher growing up and a boss who had a dad with a Feb. 29 birthday, but you don't come across too many people with the same birthday as I," Morris said.

According to Southeast Hospital and Saint Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau, on the leap day in 2008, six babies were born between the two facilities.

Morris and his family usually reserve several days of celebrating for his birthday, or "Toddi Gras" as they like going to Las Vegas. We'll hang out and take in a show or two." Morris said.

Ninety-two-year-old Sikeston, Mo., resident Phillip Dugger is actually turning 23 this year on Feb. 29. When asked if he feels like he's 23, he said he feels pretty good.

"I do feel good," Dugger said. "I have a little trouble walking nowadays, but I feel good. We usually go down to Florida for the winter and on my birthday, but this year we moved so we stayed here. I will probably have a special dinner on the 29th but nothing too fancy."

Dugger worked for 27 years for the state of Illinois as a heavy equipment operator and has since retired.

Some European cultures believe that those born on Feb. 29 are unlucky. Both Dugger and Morris say that's not the case for them.

Though Dugger lost his mother at age 8, he keeps a positive attitude.

"I had some rough times during the Depression and had to be out on my own at a young age, but overall I've been blessed throughout my life." Dugger said.

Morris leaves soon for his trip to Las Vegas and says that he's excited to go.

"I wouldn't consider myself unlucky," Morris said. "I'm still alive. I wake up every day, so I'm pretty lucky."

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