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Identical twins celebrate 100th birthday in Vernon

Margaret Derry and Marguerite Dahlmann have coffee, cake, and special bond over the past century
Identical twins Margaret Derry (left) and Marguerite Dahlmann, both living in Vernon, celebrate their 100th birthday with cake and coffee. The pair officially become centenarians Thursday, Jan. 11. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)

Since birth, Margaret Derry and Marguerite Dahlmann have shared that special bond between identical twins.

It’s a link the sisters have enjoyed for 100 years.

Margaret and Marguerite were honoured with a special party in Vernon on Wednesday, Jan. 10, less than 24 hours before the pair officially became centenarians.

“We’ve been connected since Day 1,” said Marguerite, who lives at a care home in Vernon, just a few kilometres away from her sister. Margaret resides with her surviving child, a daughter named Cookie.

Day 1 was Jan. 11, 1924, in Saskatoon. The sisters lived with their parents, Tony and Ida Willems, and two older brothers Carroll and Arthur (who have passed) on the Prairies before dad moved the family west to the Village of Lumby, where he found work as a a sawyer and millwright.

Margaret – the older of the twins by 10 minutes – and Marguerite attended school in Lumby. Like most twins, they got into some shenanigans with their looks.

“When the opportunity arose to play a joke, we took advantage of it,” laughed Marguerite. “We used to change seats in school to fool the teachers.”’

The sisters graduated high school in Lumby, and before marrying a soldier in Lumby – where Margaret was a bridesmaid – Marguerite attended McEwen College in Vernon, studying bookkeeping, accounting, and stenography.

The marriage broke up after several moves, and Marguerite found herself in Terrace, where she met a man named Fred Dahlmann while working in the office at a local sawmill. They married (Margaret was the matron of honour this time) and had a son, Dieter. They left Terrace because of the constant rain and returned to Lumby, where Dieter still lives.

Meanwhile, Margaret remained in the North Okanagan.

She married Bob Derry – Marguerite was living in Ontario at that time and could not be part of the wedding party – and the pair stayed in Lumby to raise their three kids.

“I helped out at home. I did a lot of community work in those days, volunteering for everything,” said Margaret.

Ah yes. Volunteering.

It’s been at the heart of both sisters’ lives.

It’s one of the keys, Marguerite said, to making it to 100. Margaret has spent three-quarters of her life helping out around the community. Both have volunteered in the village for the United Church, Pythian Sisters and the Legion Ladies Auxiliary.

“It’s just something you did,” said Margaret matter of factly.

As the two blue-eyed siblings each enjoyed a piece of white cake with red frosting, they took a minute to reflect on what turning 100 means to them.

“I’m surprised by it all, and grateful for my family,” said Marguerite, who referred to Dieter as “my backbone.”

In identical twin fashion, Margaret gave the same answer, calling Cookie “my saving grace.”

“We’re grateful we’ve been able to enjoy 100 years,” said Margaret. “The quality of your life is far more important than the quantity. My family has kept me going.”

The sisters received handmade birthday cards from three- and four-year-olds at a Vernon daycare centre, which touched their collective hearts.

Asked what she wanted for her birthday, Margaret joked and said loud enough for Cookie to hear, “I don’t want to live with my daughter.”

And Marguerite?

“I want to be 101. We’ll be back next year,” she said emphatically.

M and M are believed to be among only a handful of living identical twins aged 100 or more in the world. The oldest recorded living twin sisters turned 107 in Japan in 2021.

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Roger Knox

About the Author: Roger Knox

I am a journalist with more than 30 years of experience in the industry. I started my career in radio and have spent the last 21 years working with Black Press Media.
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