Jacksonville-born triplets to celebrate 70 years of strong bonds

David Crumpler
All grown-up: Jacksonville-born triplets Bob Hackett (left), Faye Hackett Chitty and Bill Hackett. They’re about to celebrate turning 70. (Photo provided by Susan Hackett)

Times may have changed a little for triplets, said Faye Hackett Chitty.

When she was growing up in the ’50s and ’60s, she fielded her share of questions about what it was like to be one.

She still gets asked from time to time.

But, because fertility treatments have made multiples births more commonplace, it now may take being a quintuplet to generate real curiosity, Chitty said, sounding amused at the notion.

She and her brothers, Bill and Bob Hackett, arrived in the world minutes apart on June 7, 1947, at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Riverside.

They were the only surviving triplets born at local hospitals in 19 years, the Times-Union noted a year after their birth — with the exception of triplets born four years earlier (also at St. Vincent’s) to a Naval Air Station couple.

But the military family moved out West after three months, which would leave the three little Hacketts to capture the community’s attention, as well as the newspaper’s. The Times-Union photographed them as they grew up, preserving various moments in their lives.

The siblings left Jacksonville to go to college, and eventually moved away for good as they started careers and families. Chitty now lives in Bluffton, S.C., Bob Hackett in Winter Park and Bill Hackett in Palm Harbor.

The three of them plan to meet for dinner on Thursday in St. Augustine to celebrate turning 70 in a few weeks.

The gathering will be modest, compared to last summer’s big family reunion at any rate, Chitty said. They will be with their spouses, and their two older sisters — Peggy Hackett Todd and Patti Hackett Arnold — and their spouses.

It’s possible they could be the oldest living triplets born in Jacksonville, said Susan Hackett, Bill’s wife, though no one’s sure how to go about verifying that.

Still, it will be a meaningful celebration, and one focusing more on gratitude than on age.

“They’re great brothers. I’m happy that we’re all healthy and active,” Chitty said. “And I feel really blessed that our whole family is so close.”

Their parents, she said, were responsible for those strong bonds.

“They insisted that we all sit down and have dinner together,” she said. That was when everyone talked, laughed and shared stories.

Her brothers agreed.

“We always sat together as a family to discuss our days,” Bob Hackett said.

And there were never feelings of favoritism.

“Everybody was considered equal,” he said. “Mom and Dad loved us all equally.”


Caraway and Fay Hackett were hoping for a son when they learned she was pregnant for the third time.

Their mother was pretty far along when she was told to expect twins, Chitty said, but in her eighth month, the X-rays showed triplets. She carried them to full-term, and each weighed about five pounds at birth.

“When we born, our mother sent a birth announcement to out-of-town friends in the form of a riddle,” Bob Hackett said. It read: “Held two queens, got two jacks and a queen for a full house.” Anyone familiar with poker probably got the message pretty quickly, he said.

The Hackett triplets grew up attending the same schools: West Riverside Elementary, what was then John Gorrie Junior High School, and Lee High School. Initially, they were placed in the same classrooms. But after a couple of years, they were separated — a common practice in school systems.

While there are many stories about mysterious and magical bonds in twins and triplets, “We didn’t have that,” Chitty said. “That may be because we’re fraternal triplets. But it wasn’t upsetting when they split us up.”

“We all had different personalities,” Bill Hackett said, “and we began to find our own way.”

Still, they were never apart from each other for long on any given day.

The boys shared an interest in athletics. Bill was a natural on the football field, track, basketball court and golf course, his brother said.

They could be “extremely competitive,” Bob Hackett said, but they remained “very ardent defenders of each other, and good sports with each other.”

(These days they periodically play golf together. “Bill is the more talented golfer,” Bob said. “I started learning much earlier,” Bill said.)

Growing up, there were times when “we would playfully terrorize our sister,” Bill Hackett said.

But Faye had her allies: their two older sisters, who were 6 and 8 when the triplets were born.

“They were mentors to me,” Chitty said. “They were always great.”

“They were always doing things for Faye,” Bill Hackett said.

In fact, their older sisters “were quite instrumental in raising all of us,” he said.


Questions about being a triplet are infrequent these days, Chitty said.

She’s not likely to bring up the subject. But when her husband or a friend does now and then, it understandably becomes the focus of the conversation, at least briefly.

“When someone asks, ‘What was it like?’ ‘How old were your parents?’ ‘How did you fit in?’ I just say, ‘We’re all close. It’s been part of life,’ ” she said.

Bill Hackett said he couldn’t count the times he was asked about being a triplet when he was growing up.

“But I was proud of it, it was fun, and it was fun to answer,” he said. “We got three of everything — three cakes for our birthday.”

His view of their childhood: “It was different — a unique experience. It was adventurous.”

Bob Hackett has adopted an amiable but matter-of-fact response to the question.

“I say ‘I don’t know what it’s like, I’d never been anything else,’ ” he said.

David Crumpler: (904) 359-4164