By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Jean Kraus and Jane Fait are soon-to-be 80-year-old identical twins who do not finish each other’s sentences as much as they mutually create them. Their conversations sound like the inner monologue of a single mind, perhaps a symptom of sharing the same DNA and 160 years of common history. Jane is older than Jean by about five minutes.
When interviewed they do not speak of high jinks, pulling pranks on teachers and parents, or tricking adults with duplicitous behavior and duplicative appearances. They speak of simpler times growing up in Stratford. They speak about 80 years in central Wisconsin and now both living in Marshfield.
There is no hyperbole in their conversation. They mention going to movies for 10 cents and visiting the ice skating rink behind their house, sharing one pair of skates.
“There wasn’t much to do, … so we just had each other,” Fait said. Sundays “were so boring,” the twins said, that they spent them strolling through Stratford, walking past town churches, and idly chatting with friends.
The twins downplay their identical looks, mentioning that as they were growing up, Stratford had several other pairs of identical twins in the town of, at that time, about 900 people.
“There must’ve been four or five sets of twins,” Fait said. All of them were identical, female twins, she added.
The twins’ father sold insurance and later worked in the lumber business, and their mother stayed at home to raise the children. The twins were born in 1936, not in a hospital but rather at home. Their mother made their clothing, and they always dressed alike.
“They (twins at that time) weren’t concerned about individualism and all that — identities,” Kraus said.
A unique connection, the twins say, exists between them. Sometimes that connection is seen in something simple like when both sisters will bake the same thing at the same time without talking to each other beforehand.
In conversations with the twins, hard times come up too, like losing both of their brothers. The twins’ aunt and uncle died in 1945, leaving four young children on their own, including a 3-month-old boy, which the twins’ family effectively adopted. Their adoptive brother died in Vietnam, and their biological brother died in a car accident. Both men were in their 20s when they passed.
“Mom and Dad had a lot of sadness with those two boys,” Fait said.
Kraus and Fait moved to Wausau together for work before eventually coming to Marshfield. They are both members of the Sweet Adelines, a local singing group, and both sing baritone. Both women are also involved with their church choirs, and Fait volunteers at Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital.
After calling Marshfield or the surrounding area home for so long, the sisters say a defining characteristic of central Wisconsin is its generosity.
“I think it was good for raising a family,” Kraus said. The twins see each other once a week.
“If I don’t see her, I call her,” Kraus said.
After all this time spent living with or near each other, they still have plenty to talk about.