ABERDEEN, S.D. – Andrew Fischer was a stock clerk earning less than $100 a week in 1963 when a doctor explained why his pregnant wife's belly had grown so large: She was about to give birth to five babies, who would become the first known surviving quintuplets born in the U.S.
Fischer, whose family eventually grew to 11 children, died in a nursing home Thursday in South Dakota, according to Schriver's Memorial Mortuary and Crematory in Aberdeen. He was 89.
Fisher said he "shook" and his wife, May Ann, started to cry when an X-ray revealed the news. A few days later, on Sept. 14, 1963, their family doubled in size when she gave birth two months early to four girls and a boy.
"I don't know how, but I'm sure my wife and I will be able to take care of them, the same as the five others," he said at the time.
News media swarmed the hospital and the Fischers' modest farmhouse after the quintuplets were born. President John F. Kennedy sent a telegram to Mary Ann Fischer, and the Saturday Evening Post featured photos of the babies — Mary Ann, Mary Catherine, Mary Margaret, Mary Magdalene and James Andrew — on its cover.
Gifts poured in for the quintuplets and their parents, including diaper service, baby clothes and college scholarships, along with insurance policies for a new 17-room mansion a mile outside of Aberdeen, a city of about 27,000 people in northeast South Dakota.
The couple signed a five-year exclusive contract with a publishing house for coverage of the family in December 1963, with the bulk of that money going into a trust fund for the couple's children. After the quintuplets, the couple had one more child, making the couple parents to nine girls and two boys.
The couple divorced in the 1980s, and Mary Ann Fischer died in December 2012, at age 79.
The family was fiercely private. Attorneys for the family for years received regular requests to interview the family, all of which were turned down.
"I would rather go into the delivery room than come down here," Mary Ann Fischer said as she faced 30 reporters at her first news conference following the birth of the babies.
The Associated Press was unable to reach any of the Fisher children or other family members Friday.