The Starnes triplets are turning 25 years old today and many people in their hometown still remember the day they were born.
Brittany, Matthew and Michael Starnes became tiny, local celebrities when they were born on St. Patrick’s Day in 1988, one minute apart.
The triplets – like most siblings – say they had their rivalries and fights growing up but now, all three consider each other friends.
“Looking back on it, it was a blessing,” said Matthew, the youngest of the three.
When people hear Michael’s last name in Rock Hill, he said, they almost always ask, “Are you one of the triplets?”
Like almost every other birthday, the Starnes siblings will spend Sunday night together in Rock Hill – reuniting for dinner as their lives have taken each triplet in a different direction.
Michael – the oldest Starnes triplet – is still in Rock Hill, restoring classic cars and raising his 1-year-old son Michael Ryan with his fiancé and high school sweetheart Stephanie Wright.
Brittany – now Brittany Freeman – has a 4-month-old, Briley, and also married her high school sweetheart Brandon. They live in Rock Hill and Brittany works as a cosmetologist.
Matthew, a Johnson and Wales University graduate, lives in Greenville and works as assistant general manager of food and beverage at the Bi-Lo Center, traveling frequently around the country for his job.
Growing up as a triplet had its perks, they say, but when Brittany and Michael found out they were expecting kids of their own, they prayed for just one baby at a time.
Proud to be a “family man,” Michael says many friends and family members joked that his fiancé would have triplets or twins.
“I was praying they wouldn’t find more than one in there,” he said, laughing.
Brittany was equally worried she’d have more than one baby last November, she said.
At first, the doctors told her that the ultrasound showed two heartbeats – but they were wrong and she gave birth to a healthy baby girl about a week after Thanksgiving.
The family is close knit, Brittany said, and she and her brothers are closer than most siblings.
When their mother Debra Starnes died of a heart attack in her sleep 11 years ago, the triplets “grew up quick” and formed a close bond, Brittany said.
The only girl in the family, Brittany was like a “little mama,” she said.
Their dad, Michael “Billy” Starnes, was always there for them, Matthew said, but looking back, he understands the difficulty on his dad to raise three 14-year-olds.
Family members, especially their mom’s sisters, stepped in to help, he said.
Debra Starnes’ death was unexpected and happened two days before Mother’s Day, Matthew said.
At her funeral service, “the church was beyond packed,” he said, and left an impression on him about how many people his mom had positively impacted.
Their dad has since re-married Teresa Salay Starnes – who the triplets say has been a great step-mother.
The siblings have gone from having to be separated in classes at Rock Hill High School to willfully wanting to hang out together.
They brag on each other and share a special connection.
When they were born, the doctors said Brittany, Matthew and Michael were miracle babies who nearly didn’t make it when their mother experienced toxemia, which poisoned her body during pregnancy.
But, on March 17, 1988, Debra Starnes gave birth to three healthy babies at the Charlotte Memorial Hospital with the help of doctors who performed an emergency Caesarean section – and a little luck of the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.
Anna Douglas • 803-329-4068