Identical twin sisters make the most of their similarities
DUNCANSVILLE — Identical twins Bonnie Magill Harley and Connie Magill Smith, 76, enjoy dressing alike with matching earings, necklaces and bracelets — especially when attending Evangelical Lutheran Church. If their outfits don’t match, fellow congregants ask why.
“We always, always, always dress alike if we go out together,” Connie said. Outfits are determined during a morning phone call but sometimes takes a series of phone calls, they admit.
Their parents, Charles and Ruth Magill, were married for seven years before the twins’ arrival took them by surprise.
In those days, women were given anesthesia during delivery and ultrasounds weren’t available, Bonnie explained.
“They thought they were having a big, bouncing boy,” Bonnie said. “My mother was knocked out (for the delivery) and my dad had to tell her there were two of us. Our mom’s reaction was, ‘but we can barely afford one baby. How will we ever afford two?’ But they did.”
Twins — especially identical twins — were more rare in the 1930s than today, in the age of assistive reproductive technology.
The Magill twins were born about six weeks early and were the first set of twins born at Altoona Hospital in many years, Bonnie said.
When it came to names, the shocked parents named the oldest — by 9 minutes — Bonnie, and her younger sister, Connie.
The family lived across the street from Evangelical Lutheran so it’s no surprise that the sisters have been active members all of their lives.
Vicar Kathy Stump has known the twins for two years and has trouble telling them apart.
“I have to ask them which one I am talking to,” she said. “If you look real close, one’s hair is just a touch — a little bit — different. Even people who have known them their whole lives have trouble telling them apart.”
They often sit side by side, Stump said, which adds to the confusion.
“I love having meetings where they are both there. They finish each others thoughts and sentences. I’m a twin, but we’re not identical,” she said.
Stump said her fraternal twin brother is a foot taller at 6-foot-2 with curly hair, while she is 5-foot 2 with straight hair.
“Obviously, we’re a lot different and we don’t finish each others thoughts. I will be in a meeting with the sisters and it is amazing to witness how they finish each other’s sentences. And they’re so caring of each other.”
Bonnie and Connie sing in the church choir and the Hollidaysburg Community Choir, but because they sing different parts, they stand on opposite ends of the front row. Bonnie sings soprano while Connie sings alto. When younger, the twins performed with their mother as The Magill Trio at various area events.
And, while they agree on most things, both claim the other is the more outgoing and talkative.
“Bonnie is more extroverted than I am,” Connie said, adding she “would never” stand before the congregation and read scriptures as Bonnie does.
“I told you she’d say that,” Bonnie said laughing.
During a conversation, Connie often looks to her sister before answering — a habit dating back to childhood.
“I guess it’s because she’s the oldest,” Connie teased.
“She makes me be more of the in-charge person,” Bonnie said, “but when we are out separately, people tell me she talks more.”
The sisters took the business curriculum while attending Hollidaysburg High School but, surprisingly, the they didn’t double-date or have a dual wedding in their single days. Connie dated her future husband, Howard, during high school and the two married in 1964 when he returned from serving in the Navy. Bonnie married a year earlier in 1963. She met her late husband, George, while she worked in accounting at Ward Trucking, a position she landed after high school graduation.
Meanwhile, Connie worked in the senior high school principal’s office for two years before Bonnie recommended her for a secretarial position with another Ward leader.
Both worked until their children arrived. Neither twin gave birth to twins, although Bonnie said multiples appear to run in their family.
For 12 consecutive years — until 2018 — the sisters attended the National Twins Day Festival in Twinsburg, Summit County, Ohio, an annual festival celebrating twins and other multiples. Connie and Bonnie plan to attend this year’s festival Aug. 2-4.
The festival started in 1976 with only 36 sets of twins but has grown to be the world’s largest annual gathering of twins, with about 3,000 sets attending each year. The weekend attracts twins, multiples and their families from all over the world, many returning year after year.
The pair said they’ve never been lonely because they have always had each other, nor have they ever lacked for conversational topics. The two speak daily — at least. Sometimes, coordinating outfits and jewelry requires more than one call to get the details correct.
The most stressful times, Bonnie said, is when the other twin is in the hospital and the other is left to worry about what is happening. Bonnie plans to be buried next to her husband in Carson Valley Cemetery — and Connie’s plot is “within calling distance,” so even in death — they’ll be close.
Mirror Staff Writer Patt Keith is at 949-7030.
The Magill Twins file
Name: Connie Magill Smith
Family: Parents, Charles and Ruth Magill (deceased); twin sister Bonnie Magill Harley; husband, Howard Smith;
children, Jeffrey, Kristen
and Nicole; and two grandchildren.
Name: Bonnie Magill Harley
Family: Parents, Charles and Ruth Magill (deceased); twin sister Connie Magill Smith; husband George Harley, deceased; children, Eric (deceased), Brenda, Erica and Ryan; and five grandchildren.