Three#039;s a charm

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 23, 2001

On Saturday, June 16, members of the Kennedy clan gathered at Antioch East Baptist Church for a traditional rite of summer, the family reunion.

But the assembly of kith and kin was extra-special this year.

The weekend event was a celebration of more than family ties.

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It was also a recognition of the imminent birthday of three charming southern ladies with accents as sweet and smooth as pecan pie. Meet Edith, Edna and Erin

the Kennedy triplets.

One warm Friday evening back in 1921, the 23rd of June to be exact, Ina and Fred

Kennedy were anxiously expecting the latest addition to their brood of five. Midwife Mammie Lottie was on hand to help deliver baby Kennedy.

A fine seven-pound baby girl finally arrived.

But something peculiar was going on. Soon midwife Lottie exclaimed, &uot;Lordy, Miz Ina, there's more a-coming!&uot;

Fred Kennedy jumped in the wagon and headed for Dr. Kendrick's.

A historic event was shaping up in the rural Butler County homestead as a second, and then a third, bouncing baby girl was born to Ina Kennedy that summer night. The multiple birth of healthy children was considered something of a miracle in those days.

Folks said the Kennedys were mighty lucky the three girls came in the summer and not during the cold winter months, when they likely wouldn't have all survived.

But survive they did.

From the files of the Greenville Advocate comes this announcement, dated July 1, 1921: &uot;Triplets Born to Mr. and Mrs. Fred M. Kennedy.

On last Friday night, three baby girls came to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Fred M. Kennedy.

The combined weight of the children was 15 pounds. . . . . the little babies are doing well.

Many people have visited the family to see the babies. . .&uot;

Indeed, the Kennedy triplets were the talk of Butler County that summer.

Despite the fact it was still largely the horse-and-buggy days with rough, unpaved roads, folks came from miles around to see the trio of young ladies.

Many came with food and gifts (always three of a kind, naturally.)

Butler County Sheriff Bob Jones delivered a package of three tiny birthstone rings.

Enclosed was a note saying, &uot;Dear Little Girls, If these rings do not fit, let your dad carry them back to the Alabama Jewelry and exchange them.&uot; The rings apparently were a perfect fit, for the three still have them to this day. Edith Constance, Edna Collis and Erin Celeste were taken under the wings of their big brothers and sisters.

Oldest sister Mary Belle helped with the housework and mothered' everyone else. Edith (&uot;Con&uot;) was cared for by sister Mildred, Edna was Woodrow's pet' and Ina Mae was in charge of the littlest triplet, Erin.

The oldest surviving Kennedy daughter, Freddie Earle Kennedy Perdue, remembers the days of the family loading up in the wagon for Sunday-go-to-meeting at Antioch East, playing with corncob dolls, frolicking in imaginary playhouses, climbing mulberry trees, and singing and playing around the old pump organ. &uot;We always seemed to have homemade ice cream and birthday cake with lemonade on the triplet's birthday,&uot; Perdue recalls.

Con, the oldest triplet, always the go-getter' and the protector of her sisters, graduated high school two years in advance of Edna and Erin and went on to business college.

Con worked hard in a well-paying government job in Anniston and, says Perdue, &uot;tried to help everyone in the family sometime during her work career. We owe her a lot.&uot;

Con, who never married, today lives in Honoraville. (It's said she still enjoys protecting and managing her siblings.)

Edna married Allen Gafford and now lives in Birmingham and the youngest triplet, Erin, who married Winford Landson, currently lives in Montgomery.

Of the nine children born to Fred and Ina Kennedy (counting the youngest, brother O'Neil), the triplets, sister Freddie and O'Neil remain to recount the many stories of those long-ago days.

Together, they still enjoy celebrating their family heritage of faith, love and determination.

This is a clan whose members always looked out for one another

and still do. &uot;We have lots of love in our family,&uot; reflects Perdue.

Lots of love

and three lovely ladies who were a local miracle exactly 80 years ago today.