Area twins celebrate 100th birthday

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter

Two Aledo women are about to become famous. On Thursday, Sept. 2, 2010 Willard Scott will be wishing a Happy Birthday to fraternal twins Vivian Huston and Vella Gowdy during the morning Today Show. Their birthday, is Aug. 28, 2010. The girls were born at home in Joy on a Sunday, Aug. 28, 1910.

According to family legend, Ray Noble, the town barber was working late Saturday when he heard the news of the pending birth. He was in the middle of shaving a farmer named Will Olson when he was called to hurry home. He raced home leaving the man half-lathered in his chair, only to find that he and his wife Belle were the parents of two baby girls.

According to a piece written by Vella, "Anticipating a difficult delivery, Dr. Moore of Joy had called for Dr. Sells, a prominent Aledo doctor, to come and assist him."

Vivian Leora was born first and was handed off to Grandma Noble. To everyone's surprise the doctor said, "There's another one!" Fifteen minutes later, Vella Louise arrived and was given to Grandmother Edgar.

The girls were raised in the Joy area and graduated from Joy High School. Vivian graduated in 1928. Vella graduated a year later, because of an illness that kept her home for most of her fifth grade year.

After high school, Vivian boarded with a lady in Macomb and attended Western Illinois State Teachers College. She finished three years and had started a fourth when she met Harry Huston, who drove up to Teacher's Institute in his impressive yellow roadster complete with rumble seat. They were married Aug. 3, 1935 in her parents' home.

Vivian first taught at country schools, beginning with Rosedale (north of Millersburg) where she remembers she and the students slid down the frozen hill in a dishpan. Vivian also taught at Millersburg School, at Centerville near Sunbeam, at Joy Grade School and finally in Aledo, teaching first grade at both Northside and Southside schools. While at Centerville, she asked for a substitute so she could travel across country to California to see her brother Harry off to World War II in the Pacific. Vivian retired in 1970, after 39 years of teaching.

After high school, Vella went to nurses' training at St. Anthony's in Rock Island. She remembers working at the old Stites' hospital in Aledo until both of the doctors there joined the war effort. Then she and some friends moved to Colorado Springs to get nursing jobs. She also spent some time in Texas and she loved the Southwest.

In later years, Vella worked at the Mercer County Courthouse in the Relief Office, retiring in the 1970s after 21 years.

Vivian and Harry Huston lived in the same house in Aledo for more than 50 years and attended College Avenue Presbyterian Church. Vivian was never far from her sewing machine, where she made clothes, books, and bears for students, nieces and nephews.

She and Harry moved to Heritage Woods in 2007, and Harry passed away in April of 2008. Vivian later broke her pelvis and then her hip, and has been in Mercer County Nursing home since January of 2009. She spends her time writing letters and cards to friends and former students, and reminiscing with her many visitors.

Vella Gowdy moved to Aledo from Joy after caring for their parents, who both died in June of 1980. She attended First Baptist Church in Aledo for many years until ill health prevented it.

She maintains her own home in Aledo with some assistance. She really enjoys her cats and her flowers.

Vella keeps up with current events by reading the newspaper and watching television, and has definite opinions on the state of the world.

Reaching their 100th year, according to Guinness Book of World Records, is only a one in 700 million chance for identical twins. There is no information on fraternal twins. Vivian Huston and Vella Gowdy have a brother, Jerry; four nieces and a nephew; and many great- and great-great nieces and nephews, as well as a lifetime's collection of friends and neighbors. They would love to receive cards and letters in honor of their birthday.

Correspondence can be sent c/o Kathy Whitehall, 551 115th St., Joy IL 61261.