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Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published February 07 2011

North Dakota’s first quadruplets turn 70

LEONARD, N.D. – Three of North Dakota’s first surviving quadruplets turned 70 on Sunday.

The “Brown Quads” of Leonard, born one month premature on Feb. 6, 1941, to Nick and Ella Brown, captured headlines around the country and appeared in a Carnation Milk ad.

The three surviving quads – Cleo and Clayton Brown of Leonard and Connie Nennig of Breckenridge, Minn. – took calls all day Sunday from people wishing them happy birthday.

Their brother Clair died in 2001, about a month shy of their 60th birthday.

As the first surviving quadruplets on record in North Dakota, the Browns drew a lot of attention.

The siblings have scrapbooks full of news clippings from their birth at St. John’s Hospital in Fargo, where they spent their first 14 months.

The quads stayed in the news for their birthdays, first haircuts, their tonsillectomies and first day of school. Media coverage continued through their high school graduation, wedding engagements and milestone birthdays.

“To me, it’s no big thing,” said Connie, the oldest of the “famous quads,” as the Carnation Milk ad dubbed them. “But people think it is.”

Connie wishes her mother would have held on to letters the family received with suggested names for the quads. One suggestion was Eeny, Meeny, Miny and Moe.

“Some names were unreal,” Connie said.

Connie said she didn’t really care for growing up in the spotlight. When reporters came by, “they’d have to have a search warrant to find me,” she said.

Sunday’s birthday celebration was a little more low-key than some of the Browns’ earliest birthdays.

Clayton visited his brother and planned to catch the Super Bowl game at a Leonard bar to cheer on Green Bay.

Cleo spent the day with his wife, Penny, and planned to enjoy a slice of his favorite cake, angel food with strawberries.

“We used to go out for our birthday, but the last few years, it’s pretty much on our own,” Clayton said.

Connie’s son, Mike, organized a birthday party at her Breckenridge home that drew about 20 friends and family members.

Mike also put a message to his 500 Facebook friends, asking them to call his mom to wish her happy birthday.

On Sunday, Cleo showed off one of his favorite mementos: a birthday letter he and his siblings received in 1983 from Ronald Reagan, who shared their birthday.

Cleo was especially happy to have that letter on Sunday, which would have been Reagan’s 100th birthday.

Cleo and Clayton continue to farm near Leonard, about 40 miles southwest of Fargo.

Connie works for the city of Wahpeton in the summers, watering the plants along Dakota Avenue.

Connie said she didn’t really feel different after turning 70.

“I feel happy to be alive and I could get out of bed this morning,” she said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590