Jul. 10—VALDOSTA — South Georgia Medical Center welcomed its first set of triplets in 1971; and this month, the trio turn 50 years old.
Josie Olszewski, Honey Coppage and Paul Hatcher were born to Bud and Bonnie Hatcher on July 12. The three are siblings to older brother Todd Hatcher and older half-sisters Michelle Mitchell and Dana Jack.
Decades ago, Olszewski and Paul Hatcher were born five minutes apart while Coppage came 10-15 minutes later.
"From the time we arrived on the scene, my parents were already parents of a 3-year-old, 5-year-old and 7-year-old," Coppage said. "So to say there was a house full is an understatement. Now that I am grown with a 22-year-old of my own, I can honestly say I do not know how my parents survived. Of course, they both came from big families so they had a lot of help."
An upside to being a triplet is never having a dull moment and never being lonely, she said, noting there was always someone available for conversation.
"We always had someone to play with," she said. "We didn't really think differently since we were triplets, just had great family and friends."
Though they were all treated the same, there were some differences between them. One of the contrasts being Coppage was an avid reader while her brother and sister opted to play with friends outdoors.
"I don't know that I would say there was anything difficult about being raised a triplet. ... If anything, I think that knowing you are a part of a whole makes it more special somehow in a way I cannot put into words," Coppage said. " ... What bonds us all is the fact that we are family. While we may not be close in the sense of seeing each other regularly, we know we can count on each other whenever we are needed."
Olszewski recalled she and Coppage dressing alike for school photos and receiving the same gifts.
The trio was in the same homeroom through high school, Olszewski said.
There would be family vacations, summer cooking classes led by their late mother or a 1950s Sock Hop party at the family business, Gerlock Dance Studio, she said.
"We were just loved by both parents," Olszewski said. "My dad always took us on fishing trips and was involved in our sports — tennis, golf, baseball, football, etc."
Her favorite memories with Coppage and Paul Hatcher are their senior prom and high school graduation together while Coppage said she favors their first family trip to Disney World.
"All I remember was getting pushed around in our strollers and having quite the entourage of folks traveling with us — my parents, three older siblings, maternal grandparents and a nanny."
Coppage also remembers playing T-ball with her dad, playing neighborhood football and baseball with friends and siblings and watching Saturday night wrestling with a nanny she said believed World Wrestling Entertainment was real.
Birthday parties occurred annually, with three cakes.
"I always remember having our own cakes," Olszewski said. "I think that is why I don't like cake."
Past birthdays have been spent partying at the Valdosta Country Club swimming pool and Skateland. Coppage said they would visit Skateland, a local skating rink, weekly on Saturdays for several years.
For their 50th birthday, plans include eating a quiet lunch or dinner with their dad.
Coppage said each sibling having their own families makes it a bit difficult to gather.
"Of course, I am glad to be known as a triplet, but my biggest accomplishment is that of being a wife and mother," she said. "So to my triplet siblings (Josie and Paul), I have more than enjoyed the journey. ... "
Olszewski said she is glad that she's a part of something special and that she gets to see Coppage and Paul Hatcher's family grow.
She said she is glad she was able to walk through life as a triplet, adding she feels blessed and proud.
"Thank you to mom and dad for raising us in such a great family environment on both sides and providing us with more than any child could ever ask for," Olszewski said. "You taught us how to respect others and work hard. We love you for giving us a great life."