Illinois Couple Welcomes Their 100th Grandchild | NBC Chicago

Illinois Couple Welcomes Their 100th Grandchild



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    It's a big deal when Leo and Ruth Zanger's family gets together.

    Seriously, it's a really big deal -- with added emphasis on the "big" part.

    The Zangers recently welcomed their 100th grandchild, which makes family functions more than a get-together.

    "We rent out a church hall," said Austin Zanger, a grandson of Leo and Ruth.

    When Austin's wife, Ashleigh, gave birth to their second child, Jaxton Leo, on April 8, it became a historic moment. Jaxton was grandchild No. 100 for Leo and Ruth.

    For the numerically inclined, Jaxton was also No. 46 among the great-grandchildren. The Zangers also have 53 grandkids and one great-great-grandchild for a nice round 100.

    "The good Lord has just kept sending them," Leo Zanger said of the grandkids. "We could start our own town."

    He was only half-kidding.

    "There's always room for one more," Ruth Zanger said.

    Leo and Ruth, who have been married 59 years, had 12 children of their own between 1956 and 1984. Daughter Linda, born in 1956, is the oldest at 58. The youngest is son Joe, 31, who was already an uncle 10 times over when he was born in 1984.

    The other kids are Greg, Debbie, David, Donna, Steve, Mike, Daniel, Ernie, Matt and Chuck.

    Many family members currently have or at some point in the future will work for the family real estate business, Zanger and Associates at 1200 Broadway.

    Linda and her husband, Kenny Hardin, possess one of the most important footnotes in family history. Their first child, Jeannine, was also the initial grandkid for Leo and Ruth. Jeannine was born in 1975.

    Donna Lane, another of Leo and Ruth's daughters, is the unofficial family historian who keeps immaculate records of births, weddings, phone numbers, anniversaries and just about anything else directly or indirectly connected with the Zanger family.

    It's a labor of love for Donna.

    "(Other family members) always say, 'Since you already have all of the phone numbers, can you just text (or call) them and let them know about whatever the event is?' " she said.

    Donna also has a special distinction in the Zanger family history.

    "Donna was born in during the snowstorm from hell (in January 1962)," Leo Zanger said.

    Make no mistake about it, the Zangers are a close-knit group and proud of it.

    Most of the family lives in the immediate Quincy area. When they get together, it not only means renting out a church hall. It also involves about 50 pounds of ham or 10 turkeys.

    The family has a well-honed routine for who supplies what and how often.

    "Everyone takes their turn (in helping with food), and they all try and outdo each other," Donna said. "We are always getting together for something."

    The unofficial "mandatory" get-togethers are Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Mother's Day and Father's Day. And don't worry, there are plenty of other "excuses" for them to gather.

    "We enjoy all of the family get-togethers," Leo Zanger said.

    For those who marry in to the family, it can be an adjustment, but a pleasant one.

    "It took a while for me to learn everyone's name -- and remember them," Ashleigh Zanger said.

    Ashleigh's mother-in-law, Kelly Zanger, married Daniel Zanger in 1991. She felt the same way.

    "I came from a small family," Kelly said.

    But she adjusted quickly.

    "It's always fun," Kelly said.

    Ashleigh is extremely proud of being mother to grandchild No. 100.

    "I feel a little extra special," she admitted.

    At first, Austin Zanger said he and his wife actually were not aware that Jaxton would the 100th grandchild.

    "We didn't even know until Donna and Kelly figured it out and told us about three months along," he said. "It's pretty special -- 100 grandkids, that's a big deal."

    Austin Zanger says people on the outside might overlook an intangible when it comes to a big family, or at least this particular big family.

    "We're all really close. We get together a lot," he said. "There's always a lot of interaction. We spend a lot of time with each other. I know there are a lot of families half of our size who only get together maybe once or twice a year."

    He also said family members are more than willing to help each other if there is a problem.

    "And there's a Zanger in just about every field," he said.

    Daniel Zanger is all smiles these days, especially when he gets to hold the latest addition to the family. Jaxton is Daniel and Kelly's second grandchild. Jaxton has an older brother, Zeb.

    "It's a very busy family, and we enjoy being around each other," Daniel Zanger said. "There's never a dull moment. We always had a lot of fun growing up."

    An obvious sense of family has been instilled in all the Zangers, a special bond that begins at the top with Leo and Ruth.

    "All the grandkids know us," Ruth Zanger said.

    And that is something that will never get lost in any number, no matter how big a deal it is. 

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