Detroit bureau chief Julie Greenwalt likes sharing food talk with her subjects. "I've swapped chicken recipes with Anthony Quinn, barbeque ingredients with Aretha Franklin and oat-meal pointers with Joyce Carol Oates," says Greenwalt, 50, our Motor City correspondent since we began publication 14 years ago. "I do interviews over meals whenever I can. Breaking bread helps break the ice." But while reporting this week's story on 24 hours with Michele and Ray L'Esperance, parents of America's only in-vitro quints, Greenwalt cooled the culinary chitchat. There's only so much you can say about soy milk and formula.
Greenwalt, who with photographer Taro Yamasaki had reported on the quints' birth (cover story, Feb. 15), also had to stifle her own mothering instincts. "The hardest thing was not to help with the babies," she says. "I had to record how the parents did it. I couldn't feed or cuddle when the babies cried, and it tugged at my heart just to stand by." She and husband Bill, 51, a foundry representative, have two daughters, Ginger, 25, and Christine, 24. "Mine were 13 months apart, so I really did have two babies for a while. But taking care of five babies is just incredible."
Assistant managing editor Hal Wingo says Greenwalt's "insatiable curiosity and talent for winning people's confidence made her a perfect matchup for the quints story." Born Julie Ehlendt in Dearborn, Mich., the eldest of five children, Greenwalt briefly studied art in Honolulu, where she was a 1957 Miss Hawaii finalist in the Miss America pageant, then earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy and communications from the Jesuit-run University of Detroit. Before joining PEOPLE, she worked as a model, ocean liner waitress, TV writer and producer, and as a part-time reporter for LIFE magazine.
Covering the quints, Greenwalt says, reminded her of her own hopes as a young bride 26 years ago. "When I was first married," she recalls, "I wanted to bake biscuits, sew and have 12 kids. I'll never have my dozen, but at least I got the chance to see what it's like having five. It's tough, but it's also sweet."
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