January birthday friends share lasting bond

Three long-time friends agree, their shared birthday month is just one of many similarities they have enjoyed for more than 30 years.

Dana Lemon and Paula Whipple, both of McDonough, and Sandy Wojnowski of Stockbridge, each celebrated their 47th birthdays during the month of January. They marked the occasion at the Red Snapper restaurant in Atlanta, continuing a tradition of a birthday dinner at a different restaurant each year.

Lemon, 47, of McDonough, works as funeral director at W.D. Lemon & Sons Funeral Home in McDonough. Her birthday is Jan. 19.

Three days later, Jan. 22, marks a birthday for Wojnowski, who works in human resources at Delta Airlines.

Whipple, who teaches students in a gifted children's program at Mount Carmel Elementary School in Hampton, turned 47 on Thursday, Jan. 28.

The trio began forming a bond in ninth grade, as students at Henry County Junior High School, according to Whipple.

"We had lunch together, and we realized it was Dana's birthday, and one of us made some kind of dessert," she said. "Then [Wojnowski and I] were like, ‘we're January birthdays too,' so it kind of followed suit. From there, we just decided, why celebrate three days, when we have 31 in the month available? We celebrate the whole month of January."

Whipple and her husband, Russell, have an 18-year-old daughter named Grace. Lemon, a co-host on SCB-TV's "Perspective" program, is not married, and does not have children. Wojnowski, who is married to "Perspective" cameraman James Wojnowski, has three children: Kara, 17; Kailee, 13; and Jacob, 10.

Lemon said the secret to her three decades of friendship with Sandy Wojnowski and Whipple can be found in their commitment to mutual honesty, and an inner strength the ladies share.

"All three of us have very strong personalities," said Lemon. "For a lot of people, that's a little intimidating. It can be a little overwhelming when we come into a room. So, to meet women who have similar personality types, who are not threatened you or intimidated you, [and] won't back down when you step up ... that's rare.

"To have a friendship like that — when you ask somebody something and you know they're going to tell you the honest truth out of love, and out of caring — you can't beat that," Lemon continued.

She added that her connection with Wojnowski is "so strong," the two bought each other the same birthday card at their last joint celebration.

Wojnowski said she, Lemon and Whipple do not necessarily see each other on a daily or weekly basis. Still, the bond they have maintained through the years, is as strong as ever.

"I can't imagine my life without these relationships in place," Wojnowski said. "No matter how long it's been since I've talked to them or seen them, when we see each other, we immediately pick up where we left off. I trust them both wholeheartedly, and feel like I could pick up the phone and call them and say, ‘Oh my gosh, this just happened, what should I do? I know they would both be there for me."

Whipple said while the three friends have similarities, they have developed an appreciation for their differing traits as well.

"We kind of fit together like puzzle pieces," she said. "It's like we live vicariously through each other. We depend on each other, too. If I need something, I know I can call on [them], because I know there's things that I can't do, that I'm not afraid to call on either of them to do, and they'll do it."

Whipple added that plans are already underway to celebrate their 50th birthdays, in 2014, in style.

"At 50, we're going on a cruise," said Whipple. "Look out, Caribbean."