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A Surprise on Mother’s Day

Victoria’s famous quadruplets of 1983

Annie
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Ken Martin, Sylvia Martin, Kelly Beatty, Clint Martin, Leslye Franz, Ashley Zacharias, Erin Stimpson

MEET THE MARTINS Parents Ken and Sylvia Martin (seated at right) were expecting triplets in 1983. On Mother’s Day that year, they welcomed quadruplets in their small town of Victoria, Texas. Pictured are the quadruplets with their big sister (in pink). From left: Kelly Beatty, Clint Martin, older sister Leslye Franz, Ashley Zacharias, and Erin Stimpson. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

On Mother's Day in 1983, Sylvia and Ken Martin of Victoria, Texas received the surprise of their lives – and the best Mother’s Day gift Sylvia could have imagined. 

The couple, who had met while studying at Texas State University (then Southwest Texas), had gotten married in 1975. 

Eight years later, they were eagerly awaiting the arrival of what they believed would be triplets. Already parents to a four-year-old daughter named Leslye, the Martins were familiar with both the joys and challenges of parenthood.

Throughout Sylvia's pregnancy, she underwent regular monitoring and appointments due to the expectation of triplets. Despite the Martins’ preparations, nothing could have prepared them for what was about to unfold.

Ken Martin, Sylvia Martin, Kelly Beatty, Clint Martin, Ashley Zacharias, Erin Stimpson

This photo of Sylvia and Ken Martin with their quadruplets appeared in The Victoria Advocate in May 1983.

Sylvia woke up at 35 weeks along on a quiet Sunday morning – which coincidentally fell on Mother’s Day – ready for labor. As the medical team wheeled her into the delivery room for a cesarean delivery, a team of scrubbed-up doctors and nurses greeted her. 

Meanwhile, the waiting room at the hospital was filled with aunts, uncles, grandparents, and more, eagerly anticipating the arrival of the Martin triplets. In those days, anesthesia was standard for such procedures, and Ken, along with other family members, waited anxiously outside.

Following the delivery, with Sylvia still unconscious, the door to the hallway burst open with the announcement of the birth of three healthy babies – two girls and a boy. The room erupted in cheers, and several of the men ceremoniously lit cigars, a 1980s tradition to mark the birth of a child. But amid the celebration, the doctor reemerged with news that would change everything: a fourth baby had unexpectedly entered the world. The Martins had quadruplets. 

Amidst the initial shock, the family received the news with a mix of shock and gratitude. The ultrasound technology has evolved since 1983 and was not always fully accurate. Four healthy four-pound babies – a blessing beyond measure. 

During the cesarean, the doctor later reported, he felt a slight tug on his finger, and realized it was a fourth baby. Sylvia said the doctor had described that moment as one of the most profound of all his years in practice. The Martins welcomed the babies with overwhelming joy. They named the first three tiny babies Kelly, Ashley, and Clint, and the surprise fourth baby, Erin.

Sylvia Martin, Kelly Beatty, Clint Martin, Leslye Franz, Ashley Zacharias, Erin Stimpson

Mom Sylvia Martin decorates the Christmas tree with her kids in 1984.

The Martins have fond memories of Sylvia’s beloved sister, Maggie Leake, “Aunt Maggie,” bursting with excitement – almost unable to contain it. Since Maggie did not have children of her own, these babies were like her own. “Aunt Maggie hid in a broom closet at the hospital when they came on and said visiting hours were over,” said Ashley, laughing.

The Martin babies required time to feed and grow, so they spent two to three weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit. During this time, news spread throughout Victoria about the first quadruplets born in the small Texas town, making the Martins the talk of their town.

Their fame extended beyond the local community, with even President Ronald Reagan sending a note of congratulations to the Martin family in response to the birth announcement. “We sent out birth announcements, and a friend suggested I send one to the White House, so we did,” said Sylvia. While it was a surreal and exciting experience, it also presented its challenges.

Caring for four babies – alongside tending to Leslye's needs – required immense effort and help from many people. Unexpectedly, a woman named Julie Escalona arrived to work as a full-time nanny for the Martins. “She taught me so much about babies,” said Sylvia. Julie became their nanny, pouring her heart and soul into caring for the babies and allowing Sylvia to return to work full-time as a teacher. Sylvia went on to teach for 46 years before retiring. 

Kelly Beatty, Clint Martin, Ashley Zacharias, Erin Stimpson

The Martin quadruplets celebrate their 40th birthday together in May 2023. 

As the babies grew, Sylvia, Ken, along with both their parents, Julie, Aunt Maggie, and more members of their tight-knit community came together for support. “I remember Julie teaching us how to dress ourselves,” recalled Erin. “She said, ‘Okay, line up. Once you are dressed, you can go out and play.’”

Sylvia and Ken developed a system for managing the babies' care. “Ken and I would take turns bathing and reading to them. He would bathe two,” Sylvia recounted. Aunt Maggie often visited to help and play with the kids, as she lived just a few streets over.

As Leslye, Kelly, Ashley, Clint, and Erin grew up, they formed an unbreakable bond. From attending dance recitals to sports games, they did everything together, supported by their family. Erin recalled how strangers in Victoria would approach her and say, “I remember the day you were born.”

Their upbringing was unique but felt normal to them. Attending a small private school meant they always had a sibling in the same class, fostering a sense of companionship.

While being a quadruplet had its challenges, they made it work. “Growing up, I was envious of my solo friends because they never had to share. We shared everything,” said Ashley. “But it was all normal to us.”

All four attended Victoria High School, where Sylvia taught, and Ken was a football coach and teacher. They all chose to attend Texas A&M University, living together in one house from sophomore year to graduation.

The Martin siblings

The Martin quadruplets and their big sister Leslye live and work within miles of each other. The Martin siblings enjoy time with their spouses and children in May 2023.

Ken recalled what it was like when the quads turned sixteen. “Keeping five automobiles filled with gas, oil changed, and not to mention car insurance on five teenage drivers was a challenge,” said Ken. The Martin household had a large amount of car keys, too, many to keep track of and a lot to get lost on shelves and underneath couch cushions. The three girls shared one car while Clint drove a pickup truck. Ken recalled, “Keys were always missing, and the question was, who had them last?’” 

Clint grew up in a house of sisters, which presented unique circumstances. “We are all part of one big group as quads,” he said. “I have always been close with my sisters, but growing up, I always had great guy friends either in the neighborhood or school that I leaned on more of a brotherly relationship for playing sports or hanging out.” 

Clint was protected by his four sisters. “A lot of brothers are protective of their sisters, but with four of them, you can imagine that was hard to do [for me],” he said. “I think they ended up being more protective of me.” 

Today, the quads are all married with children, living and working in west Houston. Older sister Leslye Franz is married to Galen, and has three girls, Kate, 15, Claire, 12, and Lexi, 9; Kelly Beatty is married to Lance, with one girl, Izzy, 5, and one boy, Briggs, 3; Ashley Zacharias is married to Tim, with two boys, Mikey, 10, and Joey, 5; Clint Martin is married to Stephanie, with three girls, Ann Marie, 8, Elise, 6, and Cora, 4; and Erin Stimpson is married to Jerod, with two girls, Natalie, 12, and Rylinn, 9. 

They have celebrated life's most special milestones together, alongside members of their village. “Julie came to my wedding, and it was so special to have her there,” said Erin.

Sylvia Martin, Kelly Beatty, Clint Martin, Leslye Franz, Ashley Zacharias, Erin Stimpson

On Mother’s Day of 1983, Sylvia Martin (front, center) welcomed quadruplets Kelly, Clint, Ashley, and Erin. Pictured here (from left): Kelly, Clint, big sister Leslye, Erin, and Ashley. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

Their older sister Leslye has always been a wonderful big sister to the four. Erin recalled fond memories pretending there was a classroom in their home, with Leslyle as the teacher. “We would pretend we were all Leslye’s students,” Erin added. Leslye went on to become a teacher, too. 

The siblings were all born together, but their personalities differ immensely. Leslye reflected on Kelly as responsible, smart, and laid-back; Ashley as a leader and responsible; Clint as quick-witted, with dry humor, and responsible; and Erin, the youngest, as creative, caring, silly, and funny.

As a family, they fondly remember their shared childhood experiences and still make memories together. Last year, they celebrated their 40th birthday together at a private party at a venue in the Memorial area of Houston. “We knew we needed to celebrate together and also bring our family and friends into one place,” said Clint. 

As they cheered and smiled in front of their cake, it was evident that they could not imagine life without each other. “When I first got married, we lived in Dallas. I just felt like something was missing being away from them,” said Erin. Eventually, they all moved back to Houston. Ashley and Erin now live blocks away in the same neighborhood, where their children attend the same school.

In the Martin family's story, Mother's Day will always hold special significance. Now parents themselves, the quadruplets understand the true meaning of parenthood. “Now that I'm a mom, I realize how lucky we all were,” said Erin. 

For Mother's Day, they usually gather at Sylvia and Ken’s house in Victoria, indulging their mom. “They’ve always been so good about treating me on Mother’s Day,” Sylvia remarked. 

Each year, they reflect on their journey, a unique one, marked by unwavering family support that multiplied that Mother’s Day in 1983. The Martins look ahead to the future, knowing that no matter where life takes them, they will always have each other, just like old times.

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