'People love that we're still together. We've done everything together since the day we were born.'
Norma Matthews and Edith "Edy" Antoncecchi are now somewhat used to being the center of attention wherever they go. "People love that we're still together," Norma told The Washington Post. "We've done everything together since the day we were born." Born outside Boston to Italian immigrants, the identical twins turned 100 in December and became local celebrities since their incredible life story was featured in the Tampa Bay Times. According to Margaret Shaffer, a neighbor who often drives the pair to the musical hour, the sisters draw attention wherever they go.
"Edy is more quiet, and Norma is the chatty one," she revealed. "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." Over the course of their lives, Norma and Edy have been through plenty of peaks and valleys, including a familial background that was quite scandalous for the 1930s. Born on December 23, 1921, the twins' father left their mother for another woman when the girls were 13. Following the separation, their mother paid the bills with a job in a shoe factory.
"When he divorced our mother, other kids avoided us like we had a disease," Norma said. "It was considered a scandal." This experience was one of the first contributing factors to the twins developing tough skin. They decided they didn't need the other snobby kids, explained Edy—who is the older by a few minutes. "We made our own fun." Despite being shunned by their peers, Edy and Norma found each others' company fulfilling. They dressed alike, played pranks on their teachers by switching classes and helped look after their little brother, John.
"We didn't have it easy, but we had a lot of fun," recalled Edy, remembering how they put on plays and puppet shows and shared everything from secrets and wardrobes to the same brass bed. When their mother remarried, boys had to ask permission to take them on walks around the block because they weren't allowed to date, Norma shared. However, when Edy went into nursing and Norma became a hairdresser after high school, they both met somebody they wanted to marry. The twins got married in 1943, with Norma tying the knot with Charles Matthews on Valentine's Day and Edy marrying Leo "Chick" Antoncecchi three months later.
“We’ve done everything together since the day we were born,” Norma Matthews says about her sister. https://t.co/fSKAaGGtBa— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) February 21, 2022
"For the first time, we'd be living apart," Norma said. "So we decided it was important that we always lived as close as we could to each other." The sisters settled near each other in the Boston area for 51 years, during which Norma raised three children and spent many years mourning the loss of a 2-year-old daughter. Four years ago, Edy too had grieved the death of one of her two sons. "Edy was always there for me, and I was always there for her," Norma 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."
After 51 years of marriage, Edy and Norma's husbands died months apart in 1994—Leo in a car accident and Charles of Alzheimer's disease. The twins picked each other up while healing from their heartbreaks and moved south to Florida in 1995, where they lived in the same mobile home park before eventually moving in together. While Norma cooks healthy meals—baked salmon and poached eggs on toast—for herself and her sister, the centenarians believe the real secret to their longevity is "no drinking, no smoking and living a clean life so we'll go to heaven."
They don’t entirely understand the fuss, the awe their presence evokes. In a world of impermanence, it is stunning to see people who grew up with gas lamps and milkmen, who have watched an entire world change.https://t.co/H6MbO8PWB4— Tampa Bay Times (@TB_Times) February 3, 2022
According to the sisters, their commitment to their Christian faith helped guide their life choices. "There's only up or down, so forgive others and keep clean for your own sake," said Norma. "Edy and I have done our best to take that to heart." Since they've relied on each other their whole lives, Edy and Norma aren't sure if one would survive long without the other. "We really feel that one can't depart without the other," Norma said. "I'd do anything for Edy. She's my everything."