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LEROY - Some people stop celebrating their birthdays as they get older, but not the Anderson siblings.

For them, birthdays are a great excuse to get together and celebrate.

Seven of the eight surviving siblings, who range in age from 63 to 80 years old, recently got together at Woody's for lunch to celebrate brother Duane Anderson's birthday.

The oldest, Betty Lewis, said they get together each month to celebrate a birthday. If there is no birthday that month, "we have a non-birthday party," she joked.

All 10 of the children in the family - a brother and sister have died - were born in and around Farmer City. Always a close-knit family, the older siblings helped raise the younger ones when their parents divorced.

Holidays were spent together for years, but as the siblings started having children, the group got too big to meet in someone's home for a holiday dinner. The siblings and their families still got together for the occasional cook-out and, of course, there have been many weddings.

Duane Anderson has organized an all-family reunion, which is held every five years in the Bellflower Community Center. It takes the large room to hold all the children and grandchildren. This year, Duane Anderson put together a family history book, complete with pictures, and presented each sibling with a copy.n;

Now that their children have grown and most have retired, the siblings started the breakfast-lunch tradition.

"Who's next?" one asks.

"Me, in February!" responds sister Carolyn Jiles.

Clearly none minds being another year older when it gives them an excuse to have lunch with their brothers and sisters.

When asked how many children and grandchildren they have, one sister gets out a paper and pen. Her brothers and sisters begin figuring.

"Need a calculator?" brother Duane Anderson jokes with the sister doing the math. They finally decide they have 46 children and 117 grandchildren combined.n;

When the younger children were still at home, their mother, Marguerite Anderson, moved with them to DeKalb.

Brother George (Jack) Anderson still lives in DeKalb. Carolyn Jiles and Bob Anderson live in Atkinson.

The others live closer to each other. Louise Jiles and Betty Lewis live in Farmer City, Mary Lou Flegel and Judy Marshall live in LeRoy and Duane Anderson lives in Bellflower.

The group, which includes spouses, is noisy and engaged in several conversations as the waitress tries to take their orders. One sister, Louise Jiles, passes out socks she has made as her sister Carolyn Jiles tells about her recent trip to a University of Illinois basketball game.

They talk about old times, such as the bakery their mother owned in DeKalb.

The conversation during lunch remains upbeat and full of laughter. They discuss their physical ailments, but only when asked. Still, none of them complain.n;

They often meet at a hotel near LaSalle-Peru for an entire weekend of visiting.

There, they spend the weekend "talking and eating," according to Mary Lou Flegel.n;


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