The first time I saw their faces and heard their coos was in February of 1992 in the coziness of their Kent home. They were 4 months old, having been born Oct. 21, 1991.
The next time I saw them was just days ago, when I received their photos and announcement of their pending graduations from college this month.
In 1991, John and Nancy Thomas had already been blessed with 4½-year-old Alex when the triplets — Elizabeth Ann, Rebecca Ruth and Samuel Dominic — were born with the help of in vitro fertilization and Summa Health System’s Dr. Nicholas Spirtos. The parents were so very happy, but equally overwhelmed.
John Thomas, then Portage County Commissioner, said during that early visit: “I’ve lost 20 pounds of body weight — pounds I needed to lose — because I have eliminated snacking between meals. I don’t have time!
“Burping the babies is real good for my digestion; nine out of 10 times, I usually burp first!”
His wife half-laughed, saying they were just taking it one bill at a time. The tab for formula and diapers alone back then was around $180 a month.
The Thomases did end up switching to a diaper service, for reasons both economic and ecological. The latter, Nancy Thomas said, had to do with her guilt of thinking her babies “are responsible for half of the garbage heap.”
Now imagine the staggering cost of putting four children through college, the first one five years ago, the final three graduating this month.
It did help that some of them had partial academic scholarships. Even so, John and Nancy Thomas — he’s now a probation officer with Portage County justice system and she’s a social worker in the pediatric psychiatric department at Akron Children’s Hospital — say they have spent $250,000-$300,000 for their children’s combined college educations.
The saving grace, literally, was that the Thomases were always forward-thinking and hopeful. They were married several years before becoming parents. “We actually started saving for our children’s education long before we ever had children … That’s how we were able to do it!” John Thomas said, adding there were many sacrifices along the way.
“We just didn’t want to have our children saddled with a ball-and-chain student loan debt that would be equivalent to mortgage payments,” he said.
So, drum roll, please, for all of the Thomas children. Alex, 27, graduated in 2009 from Kent State University with a degree in aeronautical science and business administration. He’s now an assistant grounds operation specialist at Pittsburgh International Airport.
Now meet his 22-year-old siblings and soon-to-be graduates:
• Elizabeth “Liz” will receive a bachelor of science degree in business administration from Ohio State University on Sunday. She will begin working in June for Verizon in Denver.
• Rebecca “Becca,” who played soccer, will receive a bachelor of fine arts in graphic design from Marietta College on May 11 (Mother’s Day). She will begin working in mid-May for Fahlgren’s, an advertising and marketing firm in Columbus.
• Samuel “Sam,” who played football, will receive a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh on May 18. He will begin working in August for Schlumberger International, a mineral and oil exploration company in Little Rock, Ark.
Walk with Love
Akron’s Mary Tramonte received the first of two daunting breast cancer diagnoses in 2012 when she was 30 and seven months pregnant with her son, Colten.
Following the early delivery of Colten, she was rushed into treatment, undergoing months of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation.
Her aunt, Sally Ohle — helpless to do much else — organized the area’s inaugural “Walk with Love,” held in May 2013, to support the Santa Monica-based Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation which conducts “innovative research” to help identify the cause of breast cancer.
Lynn Tramonte, Mary’s sister, said some 30 area residents participated in that walk which raised a few thousand dollars for the foundation’s efforts.
“Unfortunately this year, Mary received more bad news: a second diagnosis of breast cancer,” Lynn wrote. “She had launched another campaign to fight it, with the support of her 1-year-old son, partner, family and friends. Colten’s Crew, the name of the group behind the Akron-area walk, will be back in May with another event to raise money for Dr. Love’s foundation.”
This year’s walk is 1 to 5 p.m. May 18 at Lock 3 in downtown Akron, with music by Hot Potatoes, Bandyku and Thousand Paper Cranes; food trucks Zydeco Bistro, Get Stuffed and Wholly Frijoles; and raffles. A free polarity yoga session taught by Pamela Neitenbach and Barbe Beaty of the Banyan Tree will follow.
To register in advance, please visit www.walkwithlove2014.kintera.org/coltenscrew or come to Lock 3 on the day of the walk and register by 1 p.m.
Easter baskets donation
Major kudos to Akron’s Shelby McIntosh who donated 110 Easter baskets to Akron’s Haven of Rest Ministries, which provides shelter, food, clothing and other necessities for the homeless and needy.
Shelby, the current Miss Teen Ohio for American Royal Beauties, said she took to Facebook to get the word out, and family, friends, businesses — Electric Avenue Tanning and Acme Fresh Market — and Liberty Bible Church in Atwater stepped up to the plate to help fill the baskets.
Jewell Cardwell can be reached at 330-996-3567 or firstname.lastname@example.org.