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A Columbus man's recent birthday celebration was quite special for a couple of reasons. He turned 80, and got to enjoy time with his two brothers, who came to town for the occasion. They're triplets.

The three brothers turned 80 last week and hosted a reception with Jerry Nebel's family Friday at The Heritage at Meridian Gardens, 4515 38th St. in Columbus, where Jerry lives. His brothers came to visit from Omaha.

The triplets, their relatives, Meridian Gardens staff, Columbus residents and friends from as far as Iowa gathered at the facility, where there were fittingly multiple birthday cakes, lots of fruit, sandwiches and plenty of good conversation.

It gave the triplets a chance to reminisce on "the good old days."

The Nebel triplets were born in Cedar Rapids, Nebraska, in 1939 and grew up in a family alongside their six sisters and an older brother, making for 10 kids in one household.

The triplets were born the day after Thanksgiving. Joe was the first of the triplets to enter the world, followed by Jim 10 minutes later and then Jerry an hour later.

Jerry worked the majority of his life in farm and agriculture. Additionally, he was able to get married to his wife, who still lives in Columbus. They had three children and now have seven grandchildren. 

The Nebels attended St. Anthony’s School in Cedar Rapids, and despite having opportunities to confuse people by acting as one another, they said they never did. They said they never did that because back then, teacher were a lot stricter with children and doing an act like that would have gotten them in hot water.

“…(They) were fairly strict and we obeyed them, so we sat where they assigned us. I don’t ever recall doing anything like changing seats,” Joe said.

But, Jerry revealed that between the three of them, he was probably the most mischievous. He recalled once trying to be funny at school, noting that it didn't go over well.

One might think that being triplets could be tough on the brothers and family unit, but the Nebel brothers don't see it that way. Jim said that their mother found it easier raising children that were all the same age since they all acted the same.

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“She said we woke up at about the same time, went to bed about the same time and we always had playmates. Those were some advantages for her based on how she looked at it,” Jim said.  

Of course, while growing up, the brothers revealed that they were often called the wrong name or thought to be one of their other brothers.

When they were babies, they all looked a lot like the other but were still considered to be fraternal. So, they were identified with medals when they were little ones so that their parents, siblings and others knew who was who.

Attendees of the birthday party were all smiles as the men shared stories and laughs throughout the reception. Linda Anderson, executive director of The Heritage at Meridian Gardens, was one of the many on hand. She said the event made for a nice afternoon, noting it's not too often you see triplets together, let alone ones turning 80.

"It was really neat. It was fun to have them all here in the building," Anderson said. "I think the family had a good time, I think everyone enjoyed it."

Anderson said Jerry's daughter called about the venue hosting the party, which Meridian Gardens was happy to do as it uses space there to host unique events for residents whenever possible. 

The executive director praised Jerry and his entire family as kind, big-hearted people.

"Jerry’s a really nice man," she said of the Columbus man who moved into the facility earlier this year. "He's really become friends with other residents and really enjoys visiting with people here. We enjoy having him here in our community, and his family is great, too."

As for Jerry, who is technically the youngest of the triplets, he doesn't mind sharing his birthday with his two brothers.

“I’ve enjoyed it," he said, with a smile. "I’ve always thought that it’s been unique.”

David Becker is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at david.becker@lee.net 

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