KASOTA — To say that Frank and Connie Weber have a large family is a bit of an understatement.
Over the past 23 years, they’ve watched 15 of their children, all named after Catholic saints, graduate from three high schools: Le Center, St. Peter and more recently, Loyola Catholic School.
They celebrated the last and 16th graduation party Saturday at their Kasota home for their youngest daughter, Teresa Weber.
“It’s joyful. My whole family is home,” said Connie Weber. “We get to move on to the next things and so does she and everybody else.”
Aside from the obvious changes in technology for invitations, Connie Weber said each graduation has gotten easier.
“I have more helpers,” she said.
It’s the end of an era that began when their first child, Bill Weber, was born in 1977. His high school graduation in 1996 marked the first of what would eventually make up a family of 16 siblings, five of whom now have a combination of 21 grandchildren. All but one sibling and his wife, who live out of state and are expecting a baby any day now, were there to celebrate their youngest sister’s graduation.
“There’s one in New York, one in Missouri and one in Oregon,” Frank Weber said before five siblings added, “And Wisconsin!”
Despite the fact that they are spread out geographically, the entire family has a reunion a couple times a year. If you count the grand kids, that’s two birthdays to celebrate for every single month.
“If there’s a wedding or graduation or other big event we try to get everyone together,” said Teresa Weber, who will be the fourth sister to go on to study at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph. Her oldest brother, Bill Weber, graduated from St. John's University in nearby Collegeville.
On Christmas, the one holiday that all 16 of them gather at their parents' house, they combine tables to create one big table so they can all sit together. Sometimes Frank and Connie Weber will send a group text message out to invite anyone who can make it to a Monday night barbecue at their house. But the back and forth group texting can get excessive. As they were planning Teresa Weber’s graduation party, Frank Weber was in a meeting at work and his phone kept dinging constantly. He kept getting looks from people until he eventually relented and shut it off.
“It blows up your phone and drains the battery,” said Chris Weber, a sibling from Rapidan. “You look at your phone and there’s like 40 text messages.”
When Teresa Weber was born, Bill Weber, the eldest, was already living on his own. But at one point, nine siblings attended Loyola at the same time, and there were 13 siblings living together when they had a home in St. Peter.
“That’s what bunkbeds are for,” Connie Weber said. “They’re a good invention.”
All of the siblings helped out at the City Grille, where the parents had to put in 80 hours per week, until they sold it in 2015. One advantage was that Connie and Frank Weber never had to hire a babysitter.
“If they were too little to work they stayed at home, and I had wonderful babysitters,” Connie Weber said. “The rest came with me and worked. The babies were always with me too.”
The family made regular family trips to visit relatives in Omaha, and even flew to Washington D.C. in 2007 to sightsee and attend their brother and son Nick’s wedding. Connie Weber said she made sure all of the kids wore the same colors to keep track of them. She remembers taking a photo of a long line at the Sun Country desk and every person in that line was a family member.
“Some had their own way out there, but I think I bought 11 or 12 tickets plus the neighbor,” said Frank Weber. “I remember I bought all those tickets and decided the neighbor kid might just as well come too.”
To get around, they rode in a Dodge Ram extended cab van. Stops on road trips took longer, and everyone was reminded of the importance of taking a bathroom break at rest stops.
“It was a 15-passenger van,” said Frank Weber. “We wore four of them out for church and school events. We always got asked to transfer people around town all the time because we had the big van.”
When asked what the benefits are for being a part of such a large family, Chris Weber jumps in.
“Permanent friends!” he said.
“And lots of them,” Bill Weber added. “If you’re moving you have plenty of helpers.”
All look back fondly on growing up, although there were differences. Curfews became more relaxed after the older siblings blazed a trail. Teresa said she had a lot of older siblings to look up to and offer advice. Bill and Marie, the two oldest, experienced what it was like to be the only siblings before the others were born. But all agree they had the best parents anyone could ask for.
“We were all treated equally, loved equally and taken care of equally,” Marie Weber said. “We have the best parents in the world.”