Mount Vernon News

By Mount Vernon News
February 29, 2012 11:40 am EST


MILLWOOD — Dale Veatch of Millwood celebrates his 17th birthday today, but he’s 68 years old. That’s because he was born on Feb. 29, 1944, and only has a birthday every four years.

He has fun with it. “I tell people I’m 17,” he laughed.

“I have two daughters,” he said. “I wouldn’t let them get their ears pierced until they were 13 years old. When I turned “13,” one of them (Heidi Norris) put an ad in the paper saying I could get my ears pierced.”

If you only count his actual birthdays, Dale was four when he began driving, not quite five when he got married and still is underage for buying alcohol. A bit of a child prodigy, then.

“I tell other people they only have one day to celebrate a birthday. I celebrate all week,” he said.

And, he laughed, his wife, Polly, “probably could be arrested for my being underage.” After all, he hadn’t celebrated his fifth birthday yet when they got married.

In the years with no Leap Day, Veatch said he celebrates on Feb. 28. “I like to have my birthday as early as possible,” he said.

However, he doesn’t remember any special birthday celebrations when growing up, at least not that played with the Leap Year theme. “I did go down to the newspaper one time with about 17 other local people born on Feb. 29 to have our picture taken,” he recalled.

The only trouble he’s had occurred a few years ago when he went to renew his driver’s license in a year that was not a leap year.

“The computer wouldn’t accept Feb. 29 for my birthday,” he said. “I finally told the clerk to try Feb. 28 and the computer accepted it.”

Veatch retired from the Ohio Eastern Star home a few years ago, but he still works there two days a week. “I enjoy it,” he said. “I hate to give up working entirely.”

He might also say he’s too young to retire.

What is Leap Year?

Leap year is simply a way to keep the calendar synchronized with the time it takes for the earth to make one revolution around the sun.

By the time of Julius Caesar, the Roman calendar was badly out of sync with the seasons, so he created a new, more accurate, calendar of 12 months, with an extra day every four years.

But that still wasn’t exact, as a year is actually slightly less than 365 1/4 days and by the 16th century, the vernal equinox was falling on March 11 instead of March 21, so Pope Gregory XIII added 11 days to the calendar to get it back on track, and added a provision to keep it from drifting.

In addition to adding a day to the year every fourth year, Gregory added the provision that years evenly divisible by 100 are not leap years unless the year is also divisible by 400. Therefore, 2000 was a leap year, but 1900 and 1800 were not.

But the calendar is still not exact. However, it will take 3,000 years for the Gregorian calendar to gain one day in error.

The odds of being born on Leap Day are 1 in 1,500. There are approximately 187,000 people in the U.S. that were born on Feb. 29 and about 4 million worldwide.

Contact Chuck Martin

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