For the past 18-plus years Mike and Rhonda Hassman’s home has been a flurry of activity. That will change before long, though, when their triplets and only children graduate from Hillsboro High School later this month and then head off to college.
Whether Andrew, Courtney and Michael Hassman are the first triplets to graduate from HHS no one knows for sure. But Hillsboro High School Principal Jason Snively said he and longtime school secretary Angie Juillerat could not remember any others.
“I know I never call them by their first name because I can’t tell them apart, at least the boys,” Snively said. “I just call them by their last names. I can’t tell you any good stories about them because they’re just regular kids. I’ve never had any trouble out of them or anything like that.”
Not all their teachers may remember it that way, according to their mother. She said that when they were in second grade she got called into a parent-teacher conference because Andrew told the teacher he was Michael and Michael told the teacher he was Andrew.
“Courtney ratted them out,” Rhonda said. “She was the only one that could tell them apart.”
But that was nothing compared to what happened in the weeks before and after the triplet’s Nov. 14, 1997 birthdate.
First, they were born just 28 weeks into the pregnancy. Courtney weighed 2 pounds, 12 ounces; Andrew 2 pounds, 15 ounces; and Michael 3 pounds, 3.5 ounces. They had to get to 4 pounds before they could go home, both boys had lung problems, then five days after they were born Andrew had to have surgery for a problem that was causing part of his intestines to die.
“They told us the first 24 hours were critical and that if he made it that far he’d have a greater chance to survive,” Rhonda said. “He spent two and a half months in the hospital and the doctors said he was our miracle because most kids (born with the same problem) don’t live long enough to get the diagnosis, let alone survive it.”
Somewhere along the line Michael must have heard about his early health problems because Rhonda said that when he got older, “He would remind us that he was our miracle when he’d get in trouble.”
When the kids first came home, Rhonda said it was a bit hectic. But there was a routine and once the triplets got used to that she said things went pretty well.
“To me it was pretty easy. I didn’t know what it was like to have just one, so once we got the routine down it was a piece of cake,” Rhonda said. “Everything was color-coded for them – cups, bottles, things like that – and they knew from the beginning what their color was. That’s how we did it.”
All three triplets were in the same classroom through grade three, then the following year their parents decided to split them up. Still, Rhonda said, they pretty much stuck together. Michael played golf, but they all played baseball or softball, have all been in FFA, and they all hunt together, pretty much for whatever is in season.
“Courtney’s a really good bow hunter. She’s got several deer with a bow and that made the boys jealous because they’ve hunted since they were 10 and the boys still haven’t got anything with a bow,” Rhonda said. “The boys always gave her a hard time about that, but I think she’s better than my husband.”
Birthdays, proms and times like when they all got their license at the same time can get a little expensive.
“When they called to give us a quote for insurance they asked me if I was sitting down,” Rhonda laughed.
All three triplets plan go to college. Rhonda said Andrew wants to study wildlife management at Hocking Tech, Courtney plans to study animal science at Ohio Wesleyan and Michael is headed to Southern State to study computer programming.
As for how she’ll feel watching all three head off to college, Rhonda said it will be sad.
“They just had senior prom and it was hard for me to keep from crying because they’re all going to graduate and go to school,” Rhonda said. “I think it would have been easier if we had them one at a time so one could prepare us for the others. They’ve always had a lot of friends over and stuff and the house has always been kind of hectic. Just the quiet is going to take some getting used to.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.