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Identical twins celebrate 95th birthday together

February 9, 2019

FRACKVILLE, Pa. (AP) — Being twins, Leah Robbins and Lila Garber naturally have a lot in common, with the most obvious of which being their love of life and sense of humor.

Leah and Lila are celebrating their 95th birthdays, born to John and Emily Kessler in 1924. As the theme song of 1960s TV show “The Patty Duke Show” says, “They laugh alike, they walk alike, at times they even talk alike.” These are twin sisters who are two of a kind, except for seafood. Lila really likes it, while Leah is not fond of it, except for deviled crab cakes. Also, Lila likes dark chocolate and Leah enjoys milk chocolate.

Leah and Lila were much surprised on Sunday as a party in their honor was held at Roman’s Lounge and Catering in Frackville. The sisters were being taken out for dinner and, when driven to the site by Leah’s daughter, Darlene Robbins, they entered the dining room filled with family members and friends. Everyone in the lounge was ready with their birthday greeting thanks to a text sent to Terry Mackay on his cellphone. The look of surprise on both their faces was precious, as were the smiles they beamed, to see so many there to celebrate their birthday.

As would be expected, there were two birthday cakes, one for each, decorated exactly the same except for the names. Nearby was a framed family tree, along with a framed photo of them wearing the same outfits when they were “Sweet 16,” and they have been sweet ever since.

Leah and Lila both wore the same red coats as they came into Roman’s, and underneath were identical black and white outfits. Wearing the same clothing is normal, with an exception being earrings: Lila wears clip-ons and Leah with pierced.

About a week before the party, Leah and Lila spoke about their lives, sitting together on the living room sofa with the sounds of their 13-year-old cockatiel named Cody in the background. Their turtle named Franklin remained silent.

Both have lived in the same house in Frackville for about five years.

“If they haven’t seen each other for a bit, they’d actually pine for each other and make arrangements to get to see each other,” Darlene Robbins said. “And my Aunt Lila had lived in California for a while, so I could assume that they had separation anxiety.”

The twins were born the year Calvin Coolidge was elected, have lived through 16 presidents and 25 presidential elections. Their favorite was Ronald Reagan. They have watched all of the televised inaugurations, the Olympics and the Pennsylvania Farm Shows, which are favorites.

A first-floor closet shows jackets and coats hung in identical pairs. Even their glasses are the same. When they needed new glasses and frames, and without talking with each other, they both chose the same frames.

When they were in school, Lila was sick and Leah became Lila.

“When she was sick, I went to school and sat in her place,” Leah said. “The teacher never knew it. She (Lila) got a certificate that year because she didn’t miss a day of school. They could never tell us apart in school. We always dressed identical. Our mother dressed us.”

“We wouldn’t wear anything unless they were alike,” Lila said. “Our mother made our clothes when we were small so they were alike. In the house we dressed alike.”

“They do all of their laundry and maintain the house,” Darlene Robbins said.

They were both asked if they ever tricked their boyfriends for dates, which both admitted they did.

“My father couldn’t tell us apart,” Lila said. “He would call us ‘sister’ instead of Leah or Lila.”

Leah said someone saw Lila with her boyfriend and the landlord of a building where she did housecleaning thought it was her.

“A guy who owned the apartments said to me, ‘I heard you were out last night.’ I said, ‘No, I wasn’t out.’ He said, ‘Yeah, I saw you at the theater uptown.’ I said, ‘That wasn’t me. It was her.’ He thought I was running around on my husband, and it was her (Lila) and her boyfriend.”

“I had the same thing in Mahanoy City,” Lila said. “My boss said he saw me with a sailor in Mahanoy City. I said, ‘No you didn’t.’ ”

“That would be my dad,” Darlene Robbins said.

“I said, ‘It wasn’t me. My boyfriend is a Marine.’ He became my husband,” Lila said. “You got accused of a lot of stuff. You really did.”

“But we survived,” Leah said.

“And the teachers at school couldn’t tell us apart, so they always put Leah up front because he name was ‘Le’ and my name was ‘Li’ and I sat in the back,” Lila said. “We switched many times and they never caught us.”

Lila worked 15 years at Tung-Sol/Cooper Industries and then for 15 years at Shenandoah Manor Nursing Home, now Shenandoah Senior Living Community.

“I retired when I was 76,” Lila said.

“And my mother worked at volunteerism,” Darlene said. “She was a Sunday school teacher for 55 years. She was a Girl Scout leader for 25 years. And she was the first woman on the Frackville Recreation Board.”

“When I got a job I liked, I wouldn’t quit,” Lila said. “Tung-Sol moved to North Dakota and I would have went with them, but since we weren’t union here, they wouldn’t take us. I inspected the lights that you put in cars. I was Inspector No. 5. The Ford company got the best ones, and we shipped a lot over to England.”

Darlene said there are adults who remember the years they had Leah as their Sunday school teacher and that they still remember the songs they learned. She taught children from age 2 to the first grade.

“I loved it. I love kids,” Leah said.

“She was honored in church with a plaque for her 55 years in Sunday school,” Darlene said. “She only retired two years ago.”

As for their close connection to each other, Leah said there was a time she knew that Lila was going to have a baby without being told about it.

“I said to mother that she (Lila) is pregnant and mother said ‘I don’t think so.’ I said, ‘Yes, Lila is pregnant,’ ” Leah said. “And in childbirth, I had the pains. We were very close and still are. When one is sick, the other is crying. We realize what the other is going through. We take care of one another.”

“You see where some people don’t like their sister, and I look at Leah and say, ‘My God, how could they be like that,’ ” Lila said. “Our mother dressed us alike from that day we were born, and she would never put anything on us that wasn’t the same. Of course, we grew up like that and we wouldn’t change. We’d be alike regardless. Our underwear had to be the same. Yes, indeed.”

Both were wearing the same coats, and Lila showed that they could tell them apart with labels with their names on them.

And then in unison, starting at the same time without a cue, they said, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

They were both asked if there was any time either became rebellious and wore something different or changed their hairdos or something else, to which they both said it never happened.

Both do not drink, even though their father had owned some beer gardens in Frackville.

“I couldn’t tell you what beer tastes like,” Leah said, to which Lila immediately said, “Well, it’s rotten. I’ve tasted it, but I don’t like it. My first husband liked wine, but I didn’t care for that either. I just wasn’t a drinker.”

“Our dad never allowed us in the beer gardens, and he never drank in front of us,” Leah said.

When asked about their long lives, Leah said, “We’re a little forgetful, but we have our right minds. It’s about good living.”

“We’re here because it’s just the way God wants us,” Lila said. “And the only thing I can say is eat a lot of cheese. That’s what we do. We eat a lot of cheese.”

“And lots of goodies, like candy,” Darlene said.

Darlene added, “I think I have to say something about their faith. They’ve never wavered. There was no such thing as missing church on a Sunday, because you didn’t.”

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Online:

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Information from: Pottsville Republican and Herald, http://www.republicanherald.com

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