The Sad Story of Roni Sue

Yesterday’s post was a happy story about a toddler named Roni Marie, but today’s is a sad one about a premie named Roni Sue.

On the morning of November 26, 1966, a set of quintuplets was born to Patti and Michael Aranson of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The quints, all girls, were born 2.5 months premature. None of them weighed more than 2 pounds.

Even the very first articles about the quints noted that “there was only a 10 per cent chance all five would survive.” They “were born with lungs not sufficiently developed to perform the vital function of breathing.”

Their names, in order, were Roni Sue, Amy Beth, Susan, Kimberly Ann and Marci Jill.

About 24 hours after birth, middle quint Susan was the first to give up. Amy Beth followed 12 hours later, and Kimberly Ann a few hours after that. Marci Jill, the weakest of the five, was able to hang on overnight but died the next day on November 28.

All eyes were now on Roni Sue, the last quint still alive. She was the oldest, the heaviest, and the hospital’s chief of pediatrics, Dr. Lee Bass, said she “look[ed] reasonably good and there [was] some chance she might live.”

On November 29, one hopeful article reported that Roni Sue had passed the critical 72-hour mark:

Kicking and active, tiny Roni Sue Aranson passed the first crisis in her struggle for survival today, bolstering the hopes to her parents and doctors that at least one of Pittsburgh’s quintuplets would live.

But breathing soon became an issue for her, as it had been for her sisters.

At first Dr. Bass was positive, saying that there was “a possibility she may withstand all of this.”

But her situation steadily worsened, and on December 2 he stated that her “outlook for life [was] almost hopeless.”

On December 3, after being front-page news across the nation for several days straight, Roni Sue passed away. TIME magazine made note of her death about a week later, calling her “the strongest of [the] quintuplets.”

Though Roni Sue didn’t live long, she did end up having an influence on U.S. baby names. Most notably, the baby name Ronisue became a one-hit wonder on the SSA’s baby name list in 1967:

  • 1968: unlisted
  • 1967: 13 baby girls named Ronisue [debut]
  • 1966: unlisted

And the baby name Roni was boosted into the top 1,000 for three years straight, peaking in 1967:

  • 1969: 93 baby girls named Roni
  • 1968: 124 baby girls named Roni (ranked 932nd)
  • 1967: 210 baby girls named Roni (ranked 665th)
  • 1966: 109 baby girls named Roni (ranked 984th)
  • 1965: 68 baby girls named Roni

Records show that a number of these babies named Roni were indeed given “Sue” as a middle name.

(It looks like Roni Sue’s sister Marci Jill may have also had an influence on the charts, as the name Marci spiked in 1967, though it’s a bit hard to see as the name was already on the rise.)

Sources (chronologically):

  • “Quintuplets Born to 22-Year-Old Woman.” Ellensburg Daily Record 26 Nov. 1966: 1.
  • “Three of Aranson Quints Die.” Daytona Beach Morning Journal 28 Nov. 1966: 1.
  • “One Aranson Quintuplet Continues Battle for Life.” Southeast Missourian 28 Nov. 1966: 1.
  • “Surviving Quint Passes First Crisis.” Park City Daily News 29 Nov. 1966: 1.
  • “Quint’s Chances in Sharp Plunge.” Fort Scott Tribune 30 Nov. 1966: 1.
  • “Furnish Blood to Last Quint.” Daily Illini 1 Dec. 1966: 4.
  • “Last Quint Near Death.” Miami News 2 Dec. 1966: 8-A.
  • “Quint Dies After Fight to Survive.” Milwaukee Journal 3 Dec. 1966: 2.

8 thoughts on “The Sad Story of Roni Sue

  1. That’s so sad. But you know what? She’s floating around in heaven with all four of her sisters eating ice cream.

  2. I can’t help but wonder about the lives of interesting families like these, but stopped digging, hopefully before it got too creepy :) I omitted the names of all the spouses and granchildrewn for Google reasons.

    Michael and Patti were only 22 years old, can you imagine having quintuplets at that age? Or any age really.

    Fortunately they had at least two more children. Richard Paul (Rick) was born in February 1968. There also seems to be a daughter Jill Aranson (another Jill!). They both married in the 90’s and had children who are teenagers now.

    Interesting but non-related fact: Michael Aranson seems to have remarried in 1993. And divorced his new wife, almost three years later. Patti Greenberger also remarried.

  3. I was named after baby RoniSue! I was born Feb. 1, 1968 in Corvallis, Oregon. My parents Ronald and Susie Lee saw her name in a news article about the quintuplets and decided it was a good match for their baby. I have always liked my name, and have been curious about the RoniSue after which I was named, but she was mis-remembered by my family as a septuplet rather than quintuplet, and my searches were never fruitful. I’m very glad to happen upon this article, even though it is heartbreaking. It answers some questions I have had for most of my life.

  4. Hi!
    I’m looking for the article that inspired my mom to name me RoniSue…
    She says she read an article about “triplets” born in 1966 and their names were
    RoniSue
    Renee
    and ??? (another “R” name).
    She read the article around the fall of 1966, it may have been a follow up to some triplets born in 1965 possibly…
    -RoniSue
    (I use my middle name “Sue” as part of my first name because I like the sound of the two names!)

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