You’re never alone when you’re a triplet.
Joe, Gerry and Jim Kosanovic — in that order — came into the world two minutes apart in Meadville, Penn., on Nov. 28, 1948, and have been more or less inseparable ever since.
Throughout their childhood, the three boys shared a room, wore identical clothes and sat in the same class in school.
After graduating high school in 1966, they went their separate ways for military service during the Vietnam War — Joe into the Navy, Gerry the Air Force and Jim the Army — but even then they found ways to stay close, such as a three-way phone call on a party line when they were all stationed in different states.
Careers also took them different directions, and when Gerry moved out West in 1980 to complete postgraduate work at the University of Oregon, they found themselves on opposite ends of the country.
Gerry landed in Corvallis in 1997 as associate principal of Crescent Valley High School, then held the top job at Western View Middle School, Wilson Elementary and Franklin School before retiring in 2011. His brothers went into sales, although Joe eventually switched to education and is retired after teaching high school history. Jim works for an ad agency.
“We all had different interests,” Gerry said. “That’s always been the hallmark of the triplets — identical, but separate.”
But their separation didn’t last.
Jim moved to Tigard in 2003, and Joe moved to Eagle Crest, a resort community near Redmond, two years ago. Now they get together once or twice a month to play golf or just visit. And last month, the three brothers and their families gathered at Eagle Crest to celebrate their 65th birthday — together.
As near as they can tell, they are the oldest set of identical triplets in the state.
“I’ve googled it, and I haven’t found anybody older,” Joe said.
Being identical triplets has been a big part of their identity from the beginning. Their birth made headlines in the local paper — one photo was tagged “Here’s case where three of a kind make a full house” — and the story was picked up by the wire services.
“When we were younger it was an identity issue; you were a triplet, not a person,” Jim said.
“People in school didn’t know if you were Jim, Gerry or Joe coming at them.”
But they had a lot of fun with it, too.
In the fourth grade, the brothers sat one behind the other, with Jim in the front row, Joe next and Gerry in the back.
“If Jim was absent, Joe and I would just move up seats,” Gerry said.
That plan backfired: Gerry ended up with all the absences that year.
Jim and Joe switched ties at Joe’s wedding. It didn’t fool Joe’s new wife for a second, but it did confuse Joe’s boss, an enormous ex-football player who hoisted Jim in the air — thinking he was Joe — for a congratulatory bear hug.
And there have been unintended cases of mistaken identity.
“I was in Paris, in front of Notre Dame Cathedral, and someone approached me and said, ‘Gerry, how’s it going?’” Jim recalled.
Joe had a similar experience on an airplane, when a man two rows behind him started smiling and gesticulating, trying to get his attention.
“It was Gerry’s dentist,” he recalled.
But there were some things that were off limits.
“One thing we never did was fool dates or wives,” Gerry said. “There was an unwritten rule that you just didn’t go there.”
Most of all, they stuck together, starting in infancy. According to family lore, the triplets would scoot their cribs together in the nursery, when their mother was out of the room.
“We were our own gang in high school,” recalled Gerry. “There were times when Joe and I were on the bus and Jim was getting messed with and boom! we were off the bus.”
They’ve never lost that sense of closeness. When they talk about their relationship, the brothers tend to use terms like “soulmates” and “best friends.”
“We can tell the same jokes, off-color or not, and we always get them,” Joe said.
“The three of us share something unique — that’s the best thing about it,” Jim said.
Or, as Gerry put it: “It’s a lifetime of fun!”