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Mapleton pair forming Brady Bunch — times 4 1/2

It sounds like a 1970s sitcom, but the real life of one Utah couple could have a theme song to go with their second chance romance, sounding something like this: Here's the story of a lovely lady, who was bringing up six boys and seven lovely girls. While none have hair of gold, the youngest one does have curls.

Here's the story, of a man named Bob Memmott, who was busy with seven boys and six girls of his own. They were a family of 14, living together, but Memmott said, "I felt all alone."

Until the one day when the lady met this fellow, and they knew that it was much more than a hunch. From there you can guess what happened: They formed, well, not quite the Brady Bunch, but certainly the largest family most people have seen.

When Corinne Hanks marries Memmott today in the Provo LDS Temple, the two will be able to claim 26 children, ranging in age from 13 to 34. In addition, they'll have 13 children-in-law and 34 grandchildren. Let's not begin counting extended family.

"It's like the Brady Bunch times three," Memmott's 18-year-old son, Ben Memmott, said.

Actually, if you're only counting the number of children, it'd be more like the Brady Bunch times four-and-a-half.

"And you know, falling in love with an entirely new family has been one of the best parts," Bob Memmott said.

While the Brady Bunch comparisons have drawn plenty of laughs, the uniting of the two families has been bittersweet, with both the Hanks and the Memmotts experiencing a wide range of highs and lows.

"Corinne and Bob have both seen the joys of making a family, suffered the pain of a loss and are now going through the joys of falling in love all over again," said Susan Memmott-Allred, Bob Memmott's younger sister. "The adjustment has been bitter, but it has been just as sweet on the other side."

It all began in 1968, shortly after Bob Memmott graduated from BYU with a degree in accounting. Bob Memmott married Kathleen Johnson in August, and the two had 13 children together.

But on June 13, 2001, Kathleen Memmott, who had been fighting breast cancer, had trouble breathing. Bob Memmott rushed his wife to Ogden's McKay-Dee Hospital emergency room, where doctors found a clot in her lungs. Within two hours, she died.

Meanwhile, Hanks, who also graduated from BYU, married in 1970. In 1990, a month before the birth of her 13th child, Hanks' marriage ended in divorce.

The adjustment wasn't easy. In the Memmott household, the older kids tried to clean up the house and drive their younger siblings around. Neighbors, friends and fellow members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints helped out with meals. But raising the five children living at home was not something that came naturally to Bob Memmott.

"I was used to being the disciplinarian, while my wife was the nurturer," Memmott said. "When she passed away, I just didn't know how to fill the role. I felt so lost."

At the Hanks house, 11 children were living at home when their parents divorced. Hanks found baby sitters and tried to make ends meet working as a county clerk in Spanish Fork.

"I cried every day all the way to and from work, because you can't do it front of the kids," Hanks said.

Some of her older children got paper routes and other jobs to help pay the bills. But nothing came easy, Hanks said.

"Dating life at that age isn't exactly a bed of roses either," Memmott-Allred said.

Hanks, 56, and Bob Memmott, 59, were set up on a blind date though the sisters of Memmott's deceased wife in June 2002. For the next nine months, "we were nothing more than friends," Hanks said. Memorizing the names and ages of each other's children was just one of the many things the two families had to learn.

Bob Memmott said he struggled with learning to love again. Hanks said she struggled with learning to trust again. Some of the children said they struggled with the idea of having a new parent. And then there's the issue of 13 new family members.

But in April, Hanks and Bob Memmott began a nightly ritual of talking on the phone. On the weekends, Bob Memmott's white shirt and tie was replaced with sportier-looking shirts and a leather jacket.

"He's acted like such a teenager," Ben Memmott said. "I'm just glad I haven't caught them kissing and stuff."

After asking 17-year-old Ben Hanks for his mother's hand in marriage, Bob Memmott found himself on one knee in the lobby of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building with an engagement ring. The wedding announcements listed all 26 kids announcing the marriage.

"Being twitterpated is the same at 60 as it is as 20," Bob Memmott said. "Falling in love again has been such a joy. I can't begin to describe how wonderful it's been."

But the wonders of this story never seem to stop. While finding two families with 13 children is a rarity, finding two families of 13 that can all get along is a near miracle, Ben Hanks said.

"When I first heard of my mom going out with a guy with 13 kids, I thought it was a joke," Ben Hanks said. "It sounded too unique to be true. But it's weird how fun it has been."

That's not to say that the transition is over. The true test will begin when the two families move into Corrine Hanks' home in Mapleton as Bob Memmott and Hanks raise their "small" family of nine, made up of two college students, six high-schoolers and one middle-schooler. But from the sound of it, they all are looking forward to the new challenges — and the benefits.

"It will be nice because my dad won't be cooking stir-fry anymore," Ben Memmott said. "You can't really screw it up, so that's all he's made for the last two years. He's a terrible cook."

Joking aside, Bob Memmott and Corinne Hanks said they anticipate a life of love with the newly formed family.

"It's true — love really does grow," Corinne Hanks said. "The more you love, the more that it's available. It's just so neat to see us all becoming a family."

And that's the way they became the Memmott—Hanks bunch.


E-mail: enelson@desnews.com