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SHS commencement will be thrice as nice for this family

The Ziegler triplets (from left) Ian, Lucas and Caleb will be graduating from Salem High School on Sunday with their parents, Regina and Matt, in attendance. (Salem News photos by Ron Firth)

SALEM — The Ziegler family has been planning for this weekend for 18 years.

Triplets Ian, Lucas and Caleb Ziegler will be graduating from Salem High School on Sunday.

“It’s crazy to think we’re here 18 years later,” Lucas said. “It was a miracle for my parents. I think they’re happy how everything turned out.”

“It always makes me wonder how they dealt with the three of us,” Ian said.

Their parents, Matt and Regina, work in the Salem school district. Matt is the junior high principal and Regina is a kindergarten teacher.

Salem High School seniors and triplets (from left) Ian, Lucas and Caleb Ziegler, along with their dad, Matt, recreate the photo that appeared in the paper when they were five months old.

“I think how did we do it?,” Matt said. “But at the time, you just do what you have to do. It was certainly a busy time, but it’s been so rewarding. Seeing our kids grow up and getting ready to graduate.”

Matt and Regina were married seven years before the boys were born Sept. 28, 2003, at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Youngstown. The couple went to a fertility specialist who gave them a 10 percent chance for three or more children. It took the boys another month to get home from the hospital.

Then it was hectic with the triplets going through 30 diapers a day.

“Now we can go through 30 slices of pizza,” Regina said.

“We had a lot of help,” Matt said. “Our moms were instrumental in helping us raise the kids. We couldn’t have done it without family and friends. We’ve been blessed with a lot of help through the years.”

Triplets, from left, Ian, Lucas and Caleb Ziegler, along with their dad, Matt, on the cover of the Feb. 21, 2004 Morning Journal, a sister Ogden Newspapers of the Salem News. Matt was girls head basketball coach at United Local at the time. (Salem News photos by Ron Firth)

When the boys started school, the hectic pace began to ease up, at least for a little bit.

“But then activities came along,” Regina said. “And we still have to teach, so we still needed a third person to help get one to one activity, another to another activity and someone to be with Caleb.”

Caleb was diagnosed with autism around 18 months old.

“We saw that the three of them weren’t meeting the milestones at the same time,” Regina said.

“We wouldn’t change anything about him. He’s a special kid,” Matt said. “He’s our greatest teacher because he’s taught us so much and we’ve learned so much. We’ve become better people as a result. He’s always happy and in a good mood. There’s a lot of lessons that can be learned from that.”

“I think Caleb’s made me not only a better parent, but a better teacher because I see ways I can help my students in my classroom,” Regina said. “And then in turn help their parents.”

The Zieglers are the first triplets to graduate from Salem High School in recent years. The Sargent triplets will follow next year.

Being triplets is unique and special.

“It’s always eventful,” Ian said. “There’s always something going on.”

“I don’t know if I want to do it again, not triplets,” Matt said.

“Every time I mention that there’s three of us and that we’re triplets, there is a little bit of a reaction,” Ian said.

The boys grew out of the cuteness phase of being triplets as they have developed into individuals.

“I think it’s worn off a bit,” Ian said.

“Not so much any more,” Matt said. “Up until they were 6 or 7, we’d be out at random places, people would just stop and ask you, ‘Are those triplets?’ Complete strangers would come up and ask us all the time. It was a unique experience.”

Now the boys will be going their own ways after graduation.

“Going different ways will be tough,” Lucas said. “I know we’ll still be around for each other when we need it.

“They are more than just family. Before I even knew what a friend was, they were my friends.”

Lucas and Ian will be studying at Ohio State. Lucas plans to major in biochemistry and become a neurologist so he can help kids like Caleb. Ian will be majoring in actuarial science and plans on working in risk management.

Caleb will be attending Employment Development, Inc. in Lisbon later this summer.

“He will get to work on some social things there and also do a little bit of work there as well,” Matt said. “Caleb calls it his college.”

In the days leading up to graduation, the family has been looking through the many photos of the boys since they were born.

“I’ll go up to millions,” Lucas said.

“Probably millions,” Regina said. “Not only by mom and dad, but also by strangers. They’d walk by and somebody’s taking a picture.”

And other pictures of dad holding the triplets in his lap.

“That’s kind of surreal,” Ian said. “We’ve come a long way.”

“It’s hard to believe they’re graduating,” Matt said.

“To think where they came from and to where they are now,” Regina said. “They’ve done very well.”

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