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All together, now

Close-knit family expands quickly with the addition of six babies this year

Close-knit family expands quickly with the addition of six babies this year

December 19, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

CLEAR SPRING

karenh@herald-mail.com

Think you have a lot of people to shop for this Christmas?

A group of Clear Spring sisters will celebrate the holiday with about 60 family members at noon Christmas Day, and grandchildren who are in school all will get presents.

With the addition of six babies, a family of siblings who grew up with the last name of Mellott has grown to include 29 grandchildren and even more great-grandchildren.

Five of six sisters celebrated the births of grandchildren this year.

Their brother, Charles Mellott, is expecting a grandchild in June. So is the sixth sister, Brenda Myers, the women said.

At 9 months old, Logan Philip Helser is the oldest of the newcomers. Gracelyn Jane Hawbaker, the youngest, is 2 months old.

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"We have this closeness ... and all these grandchildren. We love each other," Beverly Hawbaker, 58, said.

Sister Peggy Helser chimed in quickly with a disclaimer:

"Most of the time," Helser, 48, said.

Hawbaker, Helser, Patty Barnhart, 53, Nancy Rosenberry, 62, and Bonnie Mills, 50, recounted chores, hair-pulling fights and mass family vacations during a get-together Sunday at Blairs Valley First Church of God, where a portrait of Jesus Christ hangs in tribute to their parents. The sisters - their parents were the late Dorothy and Jim Mellott - have never strayed far from family. They all live in the Blairs Valley-Clear Spring area.

"Her and I are neighbors," Barnhart and Helser said together.

"And her and I are neighbors," Mills said, pointing to Hawbaker.

Babies in Santa pants and Christmas dresses squirmed and wiggled as their parents lined up behind their grandmothers for a family portrait. The babies' cousins and older siblings cut in and out of adult legs and stole hugs from their grandparents.

"This is so overwhelming," one of the grandmothers said, cooing as a baby cried and relatives scurried to get into position near the Christmas tree in the corner of the church.

The newest cousins likely will not share in everything as their grandmothers do, since some of their parents have strayed from Blairs Valley.

"My son, he lives in Waynesboro (Pa.)," Helser said.

The women, who still buy groceries and travel together, fill the pews with their families on Sundays at the same Blairs Valley church where they grew up. They are joint owners of a country collectibles store called Bittersweet Memories.

"And, that was named after our mother because her death was bitter, and she was sweet," Barnhart said.

The sisters said they love to dote on the children and are more indulgent of their grandchildren than they were of their own.

"When my oldest says, 'I love you, Grandma,' I'd do anything for him," Rosenberry said.

Until the grandchildren are grown, that includes a flood of Christmas gifts. This year's limit is $5 per person per child, the women said.

Though Hawbaker joked the new births will force the women to shop at a dollar store for all their grandchildren and grand-nieces and grand-nephews, a family tradition of staying together likely will not be broken.

"See, our parents, we don't know how they did it, but they always had Christmas for us. Christmas was special for us, and that's why we do it - because they did it for us," Hawbaker said.

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