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New arrival is family's sunrise

She is both the Baby New Year and a present to the grandfather she'll know only through pictures and the memories of her family.

Toni Kay Pandolfo, born at 6:27 a.m. on New Year's Day, was the first baby to arrive in Hernando County in 1999.

But to her parents, she is the sunrise that follows the dark night.

Her paternal grandfather, Anthony Pandolfo, died in September. But, in a sense, he still was present for the birth of the little girl who will bear his nickname.

"He knew the baby was coming," said Kevin Pandolfo, little Toni's dad, said of his late father. "It just emphasizes the birth even more."

Toni, who made her debut at Spring Hill Regional Hospital, weighed in at 7 pounds 4 ounces. She and her mother, Springstead High School teacher and track coach Eileen Pandolfo, are doing just fine.

"This is the most amazing New Year's that ever happened to me," Eileen Pandolfo said, a few hours after the birth. "And she is absolutely beautiful."

Little Toni wasn't due to arrive for another three weeks. But because of her mother's pregnancy-related high blood pressure, Eileen checked into the hospital Wednesday. Her doctor made plans to induce labor either Thursday or Friday.

Then, about 5 p.m. on New Year's Eve, it became clear that Toni was going to make her own way into the world. And that she stood a good chance to be a Baby New Year.

"I think it means the beginning of a much, much better year," Eileen said of their holiday miracle.

"Hopefully, this is just a sign that 1999 is going to be the best year of our lives."

Hernando County's second baby of 1999 arrived about 90 minutes later _ and just a few feet down the hall _ from the first one.

Caleb Bryan Gorton, a blond-haired, blue-eyed bundle of joy, was born about 8:05 a.m. to Bryan and Carlene Gorton of Shady Hills.

Caleb's mother watched the clock strike midnight from her bed at home as she lay wondering whether the contractions she was feeling were the real thing or a false alarm.

By 2:30 a.m., when the contractions were just three minutes apart, she knew they were real, and the couple headed to the hospital.

Caleb arrived on the exact date he was due _ Jan. 1, 1999, the prediction of the family obstetrician, Dr. Thomas Armbruster.

"We were thinking about that, that it would be nice to have him on New Year's Day," Carlene Gorton said. "We really didn't think it would happen."

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