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Identical Twins Turn 100 “We’re Always There for Each Other”

Simone Jonker worked in NTD Inspired for two years. She wrote light articles and inspiring stories.
Published: April 9, 2022
Identical twins often share many qualities, but they can also have very different personalities. Of all twins, identical twin girls generally have the strongest bond. (Image: Augustus Egg via Wikimedia Commons Public domain)

“Long life is a blessing” is especially true for these remarkable twin sisters who were born 100 years ago. To celebrate the identical twins’ centenary, as many as 50 family members traveled to St. Petersburg, Florida for the party. 

A local Italian restaurant hosted a luncheon, which was followed by a shared cake, gifts, and lots of fun before the guests retired for the afternoon.

Norma Matthews and Edith Antoncecchi, have become local “celebrities” due to their continued involvement in the community.  They have enjoyed being featured in the Tampa Bay Times, according to Edith, who insists on being referred to as “Edy.” 

Margaret Shaffer, a neighbor who often drives the girls to the Golden Heirs musical hour for seniors, says they are always the center of attention everywhere they go. The sisters go for the coffee and doughnuts, as well as to hear the music that they are so familiar with, but they also bask in all of the attention that is given to them.

“Edy is more quiet, and Norma is the chatty one,” Shaffer said. “If you take them to a restaurant, Norma is gone — she has to get up and talk to everyone. But they both light up the room,” she added.

“People love that we’re still together,” Norma said. “We’ve done everything together since the day we were born.”

Their interests have diverged over the years, despite the fact that the sisters look identical and have had mostly comparable lives. For example, Norma is a visual artist, but Edy is a piano player.

Early life

Norma and Edy Antoncecchi were born identical twins on December 23, 1921, in Revere, Massachusetts, when Warren G. Harding was president. Their parents were immigrants from Italy, and their lives have been full of highs and lows.

Identical twins are referred to as monozygotic twins. They are produced as a result of the fertilization of a single egg by a single sperm. When those cells divide and increase, they separate into two persons at some point very early in embryonic development.

Norma and Edy‘s parents were completely unaware that they were having twins — and when the doctor didn’t come until after Edy was delivered, they promptly informed him that he had arrived too late.

identical-twins-wikimedia-commons
Ultrasound fetal imaging only came into practice in the 1950s, so Norma and Edy’s parents had no idea they were having twins in 1921. (Image: “Medical gallery of Mikael Häggström 2014 via Wikimedia Commons Public Domain.)

As children, the girls played together, shared toys and secrets, and even slept in the same brass bed. They also helped look after their little brother, John. At school, they would dress the same and fool their teachers by switching places.

Still, the twins experienced their fair share of heartbreak owing to their parents’ divorce when they were 13. Their mother took a job in a shoe factory to pay the bills before remarrying years later. 

“We didn’t have it easy, but we had a lot of fun,” said Edy, “We made our own fun,” Norma said. 

They fought every now and again – but as their grandma told them, “You put a penny in your pocket, it doesn’t ring. You put two cents in your pocket, they ring.”

Married with children

Norma went on to become a hairdresser, while Edy became a nurse after high school.

Although Edy and Norma did not marry on the same day like the Sullivan twins pictured above in 1950, they did marry in the same year—1943—and never lived further than two cities apart. (Image: proudmurphy via Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0)

Edy married Leo “Chick” Antoncecchi three months after Norma married Charles Matthews on Valentine’s Day in 1943. After that, they both moved to the Boston area and stayed near one another for 51 years – never living more than two cities apart.

Norma said. “So we decided it was important that we always lived as close as we could to each other. Edy was always there for me, and I was always there for her,” she said. “Whenever I’d get sick, Edy would somehow know. She’d call me up or come rushing over to make sure I was okay.”

They both gave birth to their first child during the same year. One of Norma’s four children died at the age of two. One of Edy’s two sons recently passed away.

Life goes on

A vehicle accident killed Edy’s spouse Leo in 1994 and Norma’s husband Charles died of Alzheimer’s a few months later. Devastated, the sisters believed a change of scenery might help. They moved to Florida in 1995 and now share a house in a mobile home park.

Although they are both in good health, they have given up driving and now rely on the generosity of friends and neighbors to get them where they need to go. “They give us rides to church and the grocery store,” Edy said, Norma, on the other hand, handles most of the cooking. She makes healthful meals like baked salmon and poached eggs on toast.

The true key to the siblings’ long lives and happiness, the sisters say, is, “no drinking, no smoking, and living a clean life so we’ll go to heaven.”

An unbreakable bond

Their devotion to their Christian religion has guided them in making life decisions. Norma said, “There’s only up or down, so forgive others and keep clean for your own sake, Edy and I have done our best to take that to heart.”

Chuck Matthews, 69, who lives in Derry, N.H. is Norma Matthews’ son. He said that is not surprised that his mother and aunt have lived for more than one hundred years. “My mom’s an alpha female and Auntie Edy is happy to follow,” said Matthews. “They read each other’s minds and take care of each other,” he shared.

He noticed that Edy is more restrained in public than his mother, but is quite able to hold her own. “Sometimes I’ll call and you’ll hear them arguing in the background, and “I’ll say, ‘Why are you fighting?’  They’ll say, ‘Who’s fighting? We’re not fighting — we’re talking!’”

“It’s all part of their ‘special connection,’” he added with a chuckle.

The sisters are convinced that they will die at the same moment after spending a century together in this world.

Norma said, “We really feel like one can’t leave without the other, I’d do anything for Edy. She is my everything.’

“We came together,” Edy said, “we go together.”