On his Leap Day birthday, Spoon focuses on family

Photo submitted to Times Observer Bill Spoon is turns 21 today, but has been alive for 84 years. Spoon was born Feb. 29, 1936. Pictured is Spoon standing next to photos of his children and grandchildren who joined military. P-J photo by Jordan W. Patterson.

Bill Spoon was born on Feb. 29, 1936 — a leap day — and was the first to ever be born on that date in Kane. But for Spoon, now of Jamestown, N.Y., his birthday is just another day.

Spoon has been alive for 84 years while technically his birthday has only occurred 21 times because of the leap year. When asked about the significance of his unique birthday he shrugged his shoulders, “What’s a birthday but another day?”

He would celebrate it on Feb. 28 or March 1 growing up, but hadn’t put too much thought into it. However, his children used to tease him that they’re older than him.

“I know the kids had fun with it,” Spoon said, later presenting a photo of his five children standing behind him.

Spoon is much more passionate about other sentiments, stories and relationships shared with his family, which include the five kids and dozens of grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. Ward Spoon, Bill’s son, who wrote to The Post-Journal about his father’s unique birthday, has five children, 14 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren of his own with his siblings adding further to the “big old oak tree,” as Bill Spoon put it.

During an interview Friday inside his Jamestown home, Bill Spoon instead chose to talk about his family, his military service and coincidences in his life that led to him meeting his first wife, Leona, who were married for 46 years until she died.

Bill Spoon was raised by a foster family for a portion of his life. Leona, born in 1939, was too. In fact, they both lived with the same family at different times in Portland. When she was there, the family had her write to Bill Spoon who had since enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed in California.

The two, years later, married in 1955 in Jamestown. They later discovered that both of them were born in Kane and that both of their biological families knew each other at one point.

“Nobody put any of this together,” Bill Spoon said. “Then come to find out her mother and the whole family knew each other and this was about 20 years after. We didn’t know it when we got married.”

In his home, Bill Spoon has a plethora of framed photographs of his family. One frame includes photos of all of his children and grandchildren who joined the military, something he’s very much proud of. Bill Spoon served in the Air Force for seven years from 1953-60.

Bill Spoon didn’t graduate from high school with eighth grade being the highest level of public school education he reached. Because of circumstances and the time period, Bill Spoon said he left school. However, he explained that once he joined the military his background didn’t matter.

“If you give them everything you got, they could care less where you went school as long as you can do your job and keep pushing,” he said, adding that those who serve should take advantage of educational opportunities once in the military.

He would later work for companies like Atlantic Richfield Company, or ARCO, and United Refinery Company, which brought him back to Jamestown and where later retired from. But his advice now to people close to retirement age is simple, “Whatever you do, don’t stop, just keep going.”

Throughout his life, Bill Spoon said he never met anyone else born on a leap day. However, when he met his current wife Yvonne that would soon change. Yvonne Spoon’s daughter was born on a leap year, too. Once at the restaurant Yvonne worked at, Bill Spoon told her he, too, was born on Feb. 29 during leap year.

“She didn’t believe me, so I had to show her my license,” he said.

The proud father and grandfather said he has such a large family that he doesn’t often get to see many of them because they’re off taking care of their own family. So, he understands, adding that he’ll never turn any of them away when they come to visit.

Although Bill Spoon really doesn’t care for birthdays that much, this year’s 21-year-old-themed party will allow him be with family — something he cares deeply about.

“It’s a special day,” Ward Spoon said of his father’s birthday which technically only happens every four years.


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