Other local leap year babies share their stories


February 23, 2024

Pine Knot News advertising manager Ivan Hohnstadt is a leap day baby, and was pictured here on his fourth birthday, or first.

Finally legal

Marlys Kilen of Cloquet will celebrate her 21st birthday on Feb. 29.

"I'll be at an age when I can start to drink," chortled Kilen, who will be 84 years old.

Growing up in Lakefield, in southern Minnesota - where she had one classmate, her future husband's cousin, born on the same day - her parents couldn't agree when to celebrate her birthday in non-leap years. Mom said Feb. 28. Dad suggested March 1, because she would be officially another year older then. "So we celebrated both days," she said.

She recalled the time her father picked her up from the local parochial school on her birthday and took her to the local radio station in Worthington.

"They gave me a $5 bill," she said. "I'll never forget that."

Kilen said Feb. 29 has been a fun birthday. She is retired from the Fond du Lac Ojibwe School in Cloquet.

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"People remember me because of my unusual birthday. I've gotten a lot of cards and phone calls from people."

Love-hate with the date

Haley Kachinske of Esko said that when she was younger she "hated" the fact that her birthday is Feb. 29. "It was just something to not see your birth date on a calendar," she said.

Things eventually got better, she said. While growing up in Wrenshall, she said it helped that her mother made her birthday a big production. "She made it feel special."

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She's learned to appreciate everyone's birthday more. "I make a big deal out of birthdays," Kachinske said. She has come to "appreciate them more" because of her unique status.

This month, she has a milestone to celebrate, 40 years in normal parlance, 10 in leap years. "I'm finally in double digits," she said with a laugh.

Each leap year, "I do something big and grand," she said. This year, she and "the girls" are headed to Las Vegas. It seems the last few go-arounds have involved her friends, with trips to Florida and Michigan in the past.

As for when she celebrates in the non-leap years? "I'm a February baby," she says proudly. "Feb. 28."

Of course, there was that time when she turned 21 when her defense of February worked against her. She was denied entry at a bar on Feb. 28, deemed not of legal age yet. "They looked at my license like it was fake," she said.

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Oh, the travails of that oddball birthday of Feb. 29. No golden birthdays, for one, Kachinske said. She chuckles again, recalling what she'd say to her mom when frustration about the date trickled in. "Couldn't you have gone into labor five hours earlier?"

But she wouldn't trade her circumstance for anything. "It's extra-special," she said. "I have to make it be."

Lots of celebrating

Pine Knot News advertising director Ivan Hohnstadt was born on leap day in 1964.

"In 2012, my son Evan and I were able to celebrate being 12 together. The chances of me celebrating a golden birthday are likely nil, since birthday No. 29 would require 116 trips around the sun."

Hohnstadt ran through the highlights of each birthday in his almost 60 years.

1968, Birthday No. 1

He was featured in a leap year story in The Austin Daily Herald with a photo celebrating his first birthday. "I suspect there's an account in the local gossip column of the Elysian Enterprise that my grandma and aunt made the trip to Austin to help me celebrate."

1972, Birthday No. 2

His second-grade teacher, Mrs. Coughlin, decorated the bulletin board in the school hallway in a leap year theme and the text "What is Leap Year? It's Ivan Hohnstadt's birthday!" The Polaroid photo of 8-year-old Ivan standing in front of the bulletin board is long gone.

"Aside from my classmate, I'd never met anyone else with a leap year birthday until I met Pete Radosevich," Hohnstadt said. "Two leap year birthdays at the Pine Knot News. What are the odds?"

1996, Birthday No. 8

Friends came to help celebrate. On a whim they decided to see if they could get tickets to see the Violent Femmes at the DECC Symphony Hall. "It was miraculous. It was a sold-out show. Yet, we were able to walk up to the ticket window and get eight tickets together in the fourth row," Hohnstadt said. "This is still one of the most memorable concerts I've ever attended."

2008, Birthday No. 11

He celebrated with a party at home and a gathering of friends. The next day son Evan (then age 8) asked about leap year. Hohnstadt explained that he only got to celebrate a "real birthday" every four years.

"Evan thought about it for a while and a short time later came up to me and excitedly announced, 'We're going to be 12 together.'"

2012, Birthday No. 12

Celebrated with the first of what has become an annual birthday potluck poker tournament. The region was engulfed in a full-fledged blizzard by sunrise that year, with visibilities dropping to near zero with heavy snow.

2020, Birthday No. 14

Pete Radosevich and Hohnstadt dropped the puck to start a Minnesota Wilderness hockey game. They beat the Chippewa Steel that weekend 5-4. The Pine Knot News also had a staff party in the party room to celebrate winning 15 awards from the Minnesota Newspaper Association a month earlier.

Haley Kachinske

On Feb. 29, 2024, Hohnstadt will be celebrating birthday No. 15 at his weekly Thursday night Owls Club poker game and a larger celebration on Saturday, March 2 by hosting his 12th annual birthday potluck poker tournament.


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