If you see Luther Gautsche today, wish him a happy birthday.
It’s something you can do only once every four years.
Gautsche, son of Dale and the late LeAnna Gautsche who is now vice president of operations and human resources at Sauder Manufacturing, was born on Feb. 29, 1952– Leap Day.
Gautsche said for him, having a Leap Day birthday has changed over the years.
“When you are very young, you don’t even really realize the significance,” he said.
“I grew up in a family that didn’t make a real extravagance over birthdays.”
However, he said he re- members birthdays as special because his mother would ask what favorite meal he would like prepared for his birthday, whether it was Feb. 29 or Feb. 28.
“What was really different, when the new calendars came out, you look at the calendar to see what day of the week your birthday occurs, and three out of four years, there’s no Feb. 29. No doubt, you realize there’s something different,” he said.
Gautsche said his grandmother, the late Viola Sauder, had a Feb. 26 birthday, “and she always made a bigger deal of my birthday when her birthday fell on the off years. Those are special memories, made even more special,” he said.
Some of his 15 birthdays have memories attached to them.
As a second grader in Mazie Fisher’s class at Pettisville Elementary School, Gautsche said he specifically remembers his mother and both grandmothers coming to his class on his birthday “and bringing a cake, shaped like a barn. There was a tractor, and animals.
“It was embarrassing. I have no idea how long the party lasted, a half-hour, maybe, but it felt like all day. It was embarrassing to a timid eight-year-old,” he said.
His grandfather, the late Harry Sauder, would put a small picture of him, like a school picture, in the Archbold Buckeye, with a little about his birthday not happening that often.
“People still call me on that day, including college friends,” he said.
Once, his family was able to cash in on their son’s special birthday.
“On my third birthday, when I was 12 years old, Rupp Furniture ran an ad in the Buckeye that said if you were born Feb. 29, you get $250 off a major appliance.
“We didn’t have a TV at that time.
“Mom and Dad went to town. I don’t recall, but the salesperson was probably a little surprised there actually was someone with a Feb. 29 birthday,” he said.
There was some question about whether a television was considered a major appliance, but the family got their TV– a 19-inch black and white set.
The website, timeanddate.com, explains leap years are needed to keep the calendar in alignment with the earth’s revolution around the sun.
The website states it takes about 365.242199 days, or 365 days, five hours, 48 minutes, 46 seconds for the earth to circle the sun once.
But since the Gregorian calendar, the calendar in common use today, only has 365 days in a year, an extra day, Leap Day, is added once every four years.
Without the additional day, the calendar would be off by six hours every year. In 100 years, the calendar would be off by about 25 days.
Gautsche said his 12th birthday, when he was 48 years old, was a special day as well, as he and daughter Lara celebrated their 12th birthdays in the same year.
“We still comment about celebrating our 12th birthdays together,” he said.
At Sauder Manufacturing, there’s a tradition in the offi ce that “on your birthday, you bring a treat for everyone.
“I’m off the hook three out of four years,” he said.
This year, on his birthday, there will be cake for Sauder Manufacturing employees– at all three plants. That’s cake for 430 people.
While Gautsche jokes that he looks forward to being legally able to drive in four more years, he said his once-everyfour years birthday doesn’t cause many problems.
One involves computer programs. For example, when booking a flight, the agent will ask for his birthday.
Gautsche will answer 2- 29-52, but the agent’s computer won’t accept it.
“I tell them to try 2-28– 2- 28-52 works,” he said.
“When you’re younger, you feel like you were gypped. When you’re older, it’s a special day.
“But really, chronologically, it makes no difference. In the off years, sometime between Feb. 28 and March 1, you’re a year older.”