Missouri twins, 68, share same-day wedding anniversary

Friday, June 18, 2010

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- Sharon Hillyard and Karon Ray are more than just sisters. They have shared almost every one of life's experiences over the last 68 years.

As children, they shared the same classrooms and the same friends in the same small town. They shared clothes and shoes. They even shared a boyfriend for a little while until they figured out what he was up to.

To top it off, they were even born on the same day.

But it isn't Sharon and Karon's twin-hood that makes these two unique. They don't just share the same birthday -- they also share the same wedding anniversary.

Sharon and Karon were married on the same day, in the same church, in a double ceremony on June 11, 1960, a move designed to keep the day special for both girls.

"That way one of us didn't have to be first and one second," Karon said.

The sisters said their fiances weren't so sure at first about the arrangement, but in the end both were good sports and went along with it. After all, it saved the family some serious money and time.

The ceremony was a simple affair, held in a small church in Gillman City on a typical June Missouri evening, stormy and hot.

"There was no air conditioning then," Bill Hillyard, Sharon's husband, said.

"It was just like an ordinary wedding," Allan Ray, Karon's groom, said. "Except there were two couples and the brides looked just alike."

The girls' father walked the older of the two, Karon, down the aisle, while the pair's brother walked Sharon down to meet the preacher, their cousin, who was so worried he would marry the wrong girl to the wrong guy that he almost did.

"He fretted and fretted that he would get the wrong person married to the wrong person," Karon said.

"In our wedding books he signed the wrong names in the wrong wedding books," Sharon said. "Hers is in mine and mine is in hers."

Fifty years later, the sisters are celebrating another of life's milestones together -- their golden anniversaries. The couples have a small get-together planned. Nothing fancy, a day full of family and friends just like their wedding day fifty years ago.

"It doesn't seem so long now," Karon said. "It just goes by awfully fast."

On that warm June day in 1960, for the first time the sisters' lives took different roads. Karon became a teacher while Sharon went to beauty school.

They no longer live together. Karon stayed in Missouri, Sharon moved from state to state. The sisters don't even share clothes anymore, but they do often find their separate shopping trips have scored them the same pairs of shoes.

But one thing has remained the same -- their commitment to each other, their families and their husbands. In a day when more than half of all marriages end in divorce, the women say the secret to their marital bliss is simple.

"You just make your minds up that this is it," Sharon said. "You have to make those choices almost daily."

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