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 no 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.)
- “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.