The bond between Ora Beryl Baldwin and her twin sister, Oma Meryl Baldwin, is at 88 years, and growing.
There’s almost nothing like it in Fort Worth, Tarrant County or Texas.
They were born in 1931 at Saint Joseph’s Hospital, played cards and sandlot baseball in south Fort Worth — where they came to be known as the “Southside Twins,” worked many times at the same businesses, never married and lived in the same family home for 81 years.
And today, that bond is still there for the tiny twins, Beryl and Meryl, who stand at 4-foot-10. It has slowed down a bit because dementia has deteriorated their health, and they’ve moved from their Fort Worth home, residing now at the Lexington Place Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Richland Hills.
“When one is out of their room, the other is not calm until the other one returns,” said their niece, Kathy Gray of Grapevine, in a Wednesday interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
The Baldwin twins were one of the first sets of twins born at Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Fort Worth. The hospital closed in 1995. Their brother died in 1997.
The twins grew up in the 3100 block of Willing Street in Fort Worth, the family’s home where the girls lived until 2012.
And their childhood was magical, literally.
Louis Daniel, 88, of Fort Worth said he has known the twins for most of his life. He teamed with the twins’ father, Leon Baldwin, as magicians on numerous shows when the girls were young.
“The girls were almost like my sisters,” Daniel said. “It was handy that they looked alike because we had it where one would disappear from the stage and then the other would reappear in the audience. And they were tiny, so they fit in trunks.”
The girls had a grade school education, and their lives centered on working, fishing together at Echo Lake, playing card games, coloring, watching television and walking everywhere in south Fort Worth.
Their jobs included places like Whitley Drug Store and Hemphill’s Restaurant in south Fort Worth.
Later in life, the twins were the fun “aunts.”
“We had a lot of fun with them,” said their niece Susan Demas of Long Beach, California, in a telephone interview. “They took us camping and fishing, and we played baseball with them. They took us to the Stock Show every year.”
Gray said their aunts would say “everyone had 99 strikes” when someone was batting.
Demas said she was glad the sisters never married and had children of their own.
“Beryl talked once about having a boyfriend but he was killed in the Korean War and she never said anything more about him,” Demas said. “Meryl would say, ‘Don’t call me Miss, I don’t miss nothing’.”
When the nieces were 16 or 17 years old, the twins took them for drinks at a bar on Hemphill Street.
“Oh, everyone knew them when we walked in,” Demas said.
For years, the twins didn’t know how to drive. Their father drove them to work and picked them up every day until he died in 1974. Meryl got her license and took over the driving duties.
All this time, the twins lived in the same Fort Worth house where they grew up, spending almost every minute together.
“Sure, you live that long together, there was fighting among sisters,” Gray said. “But at the end of the day, they were there for each other.”
In recent years, the Baldwin sisters’ health has declined, but friends and family members have kept a watch on the twins.
Old friend Daniel checked on the girls when their father died and the family still lived in south Fort Worth.
“We lived in the TCU area, so it wasn’t anything to drive by and check on them,” Daniel said. “They’ve been like family to me.”
These days, the twins suffer from dementia. Meryl’s case is more severe, but the bond remains.
“We had to pull their beds together,” said Allan Driscoll, activity director at Lexington Place in Richland Hills. Driscoll has been in long-term care and had never had twins as patients.
“It’s been quite an experience to watch these two,” he said.
These days, Beryl is able to talk to family members and the staff at the Lexington on a limited basis, but Meryl cannot.
“They can feel each others’ pain,” Gray said. “It’s just been an incredible bond.”