As the solar from the window in her Christchurch house lit her face, Jean Fergusson deftly swung her left leg onto the waist-high kitchen desk.
It was a brilliant morning earlier this month and the 99-year-old was demonstrating a scene first performed out in her physician’s workplace.
‘’When I went to resume my driver licence lately, my physician requested how excessive I might raise my leg, so I put it up on the desk.’’
Just weeks shy of her a centesimal birthday, Jean had suggested through textual content – full with applicable emoji – that she might squeeze an interview into her schedule after popping to the mall for espresso, a visit to her accountant’s workplace and a fiercelycompetitive recreation of mahjong.
Two doorways down, Jean’s equivalent twin sister, Joan, was busy too.
‘’The Fergusson twins, that is what everybody calls us,” stated Jean.
‘’We have been born in Christchurch. We have been a household of eight kids, we had 5 older siblings and a youthful brother. The sister earlier than us was 10 years older. The three of us youthful ones have been thick as thieves.”
When Jean and Joan have been born prematurely at Nurse Duncan’s non-public nursing dwelling on May 10, 1922, they weren’t given a lot probability of survival.
But they lived, and have been taken dwelling by their dad and mom, Henry Charles and Clara Annie Fergusson, to their household dwelling on the nook of Victoria St and Salisbury St.
Wrapped in ”a particular orange go well with” by the physician – their solely garment for the primary six months – they have been positioned right into a deepdrawer of their dad and mom’ wardrobe.
”That’s what they did in these days, not many twins survived. Think of what my mom would have needed to do daily, taking care of the kids and washing the garments by hand,” Jean stated.
”On our first day at college, which I bear in mind very clearly,Joan and I arrived to start out on the ‘normal’ college, and there was one other set of equivalent twins, Peter and Paul beginning that day too. We 4 turned agency pals.’’
The ladies continued their schooling with ”many gratifying occasions” at Christchurch Girls High School, the place they wore title badges, earlier than leaving in 1939.
The sporty pair have been aggressive, and significantly cherished to play tennis.
The trendy Fergusson twins loved carrying matching garments proper up till their 20s, and past.
‘’We at all times wore the identical issues, even when we weren’t making an attempt to, we’d simply seem in the identical garments however in several colors. Even in the course of the Depression when it was tough to get materials.
‘’I did not just like the Depression… you ate no matter was positioned on the desk in entrance of you that day, it doesn’t matter what it was. Our mom made us matching garments out of the hand-me-downs from our older sisters.”
Growing up 100 years in the past was “completely different”.
“We fought childish paralysis, influenza, whooping cough – there have been no injections, you needed to dwell by … chickenpox, measles.’’
Jean would not should suppose exhausting when requested concerning the worst expertise of her life.
”That could be after we have been 27 and Joan acquired married and moved to Invercargill. It was the primary time we have been separated. People do not perceive with twins… Sisters are sisters.Twins share every little thing from the day they’re born.”
Joan has 4 kids, 11 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren, together with three units of twins.
Her daughters Gillian and Jeanette described the sisters as ”greatest pals” and stated their mom was a enjoyable and loving girl who loved sports activities and was well-known for her baking and group work.
Joan married Graham Melhop, the son of H.E. Melhop whose well-known engineering agency in Invercargill was accountable for beginning the Shotover Jet in Queenstown. Her youngest son, Brent Melhop, stated she raised her kids with the identical ideas instilled in her by her dad and mom.
”Three weeks after she married, Joan’s husband despatched her dwelling for a go to as a result of she was so homesick,” recalled Jean. ”I stayed in Christchurch and cared for our mom.’’
When she was 42, Jean married a Canadian geologist.
”Mum stated I had to consider myself, it was getting close to her time. I moved to Canada, Edmonton. I by no means had any kids of my very own.’’
She discovered to drive ”on the improper aspect” and took up a job bookkeeping, regardless of her husband’s disapproval.
”My husband did not need me to work, however I wished to be taught the lifetime of Canadians, their cash programs and lifestyle. There was a younger woman there, Elizabeth, she was 10 and her dad and mom helped us in Canada,” stated Jean.
”From when she was 10 she at all times known as me the ‘other mother’. Elizabeth is just like the daughter I by no means had, that is the one method I might put it. Her kids and grandchildren name me GK – Grandma Kiwi.”
After 25 years, Jean and her husband returned dwelling to Christchurch to retire.
”We had solely been right here three years when he died of most cancers.”
At 90, Jean and Joan moved into neighbouring properties however nonetheless lived independently within the retirement complicated.
Even on the age of 99, the aggressive siblings nonetheless squabbled sometimes, Joan acknowledged with a cheeky grin.
”We are like Laurel and Hardy, that is what Joan stated – she is tall, and I’m the larger one.”
Jean picks up a photograph in a gilded body.
”Come on pricey, I’ll present you one thing. I can bear in mind this. That’s me and my sister – we have been flower ladies for our sister’s marriage ceremony.”
Jean holds the photograph fastidiously and her eyes shine with the recollections.
At 99, Jean had all her ”personal bits” – ”no knee replacements or hip replacements or something like that” – and was on no medicine.
What’s their secret?
”A giggle, good genes and religion,” stated Jean. ”I’m in His fingers. We have been raised in a Christian dwelling and after we have been rising up, our dad taught us to stroll away from an argument, so I’ve at all times performed that.”
As I’m about to depart, Jean searches for an invite to her a centesimal birthday celebration.
”I like that black and white image of us two the very best, it’s us out buying collectively final 12 months carrying our caps. It’s us ladies collectively on an journey.”
On Saturday, the day of her birthday celebration and simply three days shy of her a centesimal birthday on Tuesday, May 10, Jean died in hospital.