Washington’s first quintuplets to graduate: Richland siblings head for divergent careers

Tri-City Herald staff writerMay 31, 2014 

It's not difficult to tell the Bowman quintuplets apart.

Clint is the lone guy among his sisters, and Sierra the only blonde in a group of brunettes.

Randi has a mischievous look to her, as mother Joyce Bowman says.

Even identical twins Rachel and Danielle are easy to distinguish, since Rachel wears glasses and both sport different hairstyles.

But their differences are deeper than appearances, as are the similarities that bind the first set of quintuplets born in Washington nearly 18 years ago. "(Classmates) asked us what it's like to be a quintuplet," Danielle said, "and it's like being asked what it's like being an only child. We don't know."

The quints graduate Friday from Richland's Hanford High School, heading toward divergent careers ranging from wildlife biology to health care and the military. Their parents and others said the quints always were allowed to be themselves, to develop their own identities. But no matter what the future brings, they'll never lose their unusual bond.

Big delivery

Joyce and Roger Bowman bought their five-bedroom home in north Richland in 1995, just months before learning they were expecting quintuplets.

The couple moved to the Tri-Cities in 1982, not long after they married and Roger was released from a rehabilitation center.

He was paralyzed in a motorcycle crash in 1981 but had already been offered a job on the Hanford site, where he worked for different contractors until 2005, when he went on long-term disability.

When they bought the house, they had one son, Matthew, whom they had adopted after years of trying to have a baby.

"We thought, 'This is a huge house, we'll never fill this up,' " said Joyce, who stopped working to be a full-time mother.

It was after hearing about a new form of in-vitro fertilization, which cost about $15,000, that they decided to try again for more children.

They initially hoped for just one baby or maybe twins, but ultrasounds eventually revealed five embryos developing in her womb.

Doctors recommended, for her safety and to improve their chances of having a healthy child, that the Bowmans remove some of the embryos.

"I'd seen those perfect little beings ... I couldn't think of that," Joyce told the Herald in 1996.

The babies were due in August 1996, but multiple births rarely go full term.

And about five months into her pregnancy, Joyce was restricted to bedrest at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane.

She carried them for 30 weeks before they were born prematurely June 20. They were finally allowed to go home to Richland two months later.

The quints proved to be fighters despite being born 10 weeks early, battling infections and undergoing surgeries.

Rachel and Clint have faced more challenges -- Rachel a heart defect, Clint respiratory issues. And both have eye problems.

When Rachel had heart surgery at age 3, Danielle went into a silent, trance-like state waiting at home. Rachel later told family that she saw her twin with her during the surgery, Joyce said.

Rachel, who has always been studious but struggled with reading and tests, learned 1 1/2 years ago that she is half blind in both eyes. She now uses a cane to help her navigate, but she's still intent on a career in health care.

"We've joked about what people would say if she came in to draw blood while using a cane," Joyce said, laughing.

A team of individuals

It didn't take long for their distinct personalities to emerge.

Randi was often a ringleader and instigator. She particularly liked to surprise Clint, partly because she knew he wasn't allowed to hit his sisters.

And Clint always has been the most laid back and "most would see him as the quiet one," Joyce said.

"Nope," Clint countered.

"Clint and I are the adventurous ones," Randi said.

The twins, Rachel and Danielle, are the family "enforcers," making sure household rules are followed. But their similar temperaments pushed their parents into separating them into bedrooms with a different a sister so they wouldn't argue and fight with each other.

And Sierra?

"I spice up everyone," she said. "I'm sarcastic and sassy, and I'm proud of it."

One story they like to tell is when Sierra and Clint were toddlers.

Joyce found them in the kitchen with their hands in a storage container of Cocoa Puffs. In a panic, they spilled the cereal across the floor.

Realizing the mess was already made, Joyce let all five gleefully smash the little puffs on the kitchen floor with their feet.

Excelling in their own ways

Nancy Elliott was a little stunned when the quintuplets walked into her sixth-grade band class at Chief Joseph Middle School for the first time.

"I thought, 'How in the world are they going to practice?' " recalled the retired music teacher. "Most families don't like having one child practice at home." But they developed quickly on their given instruments -- trumpet for Sierra, french horn for Danielle, saxophone for Rachel, clarinet for Clint and Randi on clarinet and sax.

"You know, they have that great work ethic," Elliott said.

It's that determination that has propelled the quints.

As teenagers, they all earned the driving hours they needed to gain provisional driver's licenses by getting behind the wheel of the paratransit van their father uses to get around.

They all participated in marching band at Hanford High, with four of them going to state music competitions.

They also spent some time at the Tri-Tech Skills Center in Kennewick. And Randi and the twins are in Running Start, taking college-level classes at Columbia Basin College.

But they all found their own path along the way.

"They each developed on their own," said Marilyn Delegard of Richland, a family friend who helped care for and babysit the quints until they were in middle school.

Clint has spent two years in Tri-Tech's automotive technology program, twice qualifying for regional and state competitions.

Sierra joined the Hanford Police Explorer program, where she's become a lieutenant. Randi has a perfect 4.0 grade-point average and is focused on science.

Rachel already qualified as a certified nursing assistant through Tri-Tech's nursing program and volunteers at Kadlec Regional Medical Center. Twin sister Danielle has spent two years training as a firefighter.

"They're all very driven," said their dad. "They all have goals and are pursuing them aggressively."

Eternal ties

The twins and Clint will head to CBC this fall. Rachel wants to pursue a nursing degree, and Danielle wants to become a paramedic, while Clint is undecided.

Sierra will go to New Jersey in August to train for the Coast Guard. And Randi will attend Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, studying wildlife biology.

Family friends and educators who have watched the quints said they aren't surprised at their accomplishments nor at the different careers they're focusing on. "To me, what's going to be interesting is the next 10 years," Delegard said.

The quints are taking the change in stride.

"It's moving on, basically," Clint said.

"It'll be interesting," Sierra added.

Randi was more pragmatic.

"It's like how we went to separate classes in middle school," she said, later adding, "I'm kind of sad we're parting ways, but we're just trying to focus on the exciting parts."

The family doesn't do as much together anymore, Joyce and Roger admit.

Matthew, now 24, is often away, working as a trucker, though a pending move to a Pasco-based company will mean shorter trips and more time at home with his wife.

The quints are busy volunteering, taking night classes or pursuing other interests.

The five setting off on their lives will make family gatherings that much rarer, but their parents said the plan all along was to raise children who are strong and independent.

They never gave the kids allowances, have required them to pay for things such as their cellphones and their college educations.

"We kind of feel like we've prepared them," Roger said.

"We've encouraged them -- that they can achieve what they want to achieve," Joyce said.

Their parents' approach, while perhaps at times frustrating, hasn't gone unappreciated.

"Basically, we all feel this way, but we feel like our parents are the best ones we could have had," Randi said.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald

Tri-City Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service