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Bob Lind, Published November 23 2013

Neighbors: Aneta-born twins share first and married names

It was Sept. 28, 1923, in the days when doctors made house calls, and this one was a biggie for the town doctor of Aneta, N.D. Bertha Thompson was in labor.

So Dr. Charles Bennett hustled over to the home of Bertha and her husband, Lawrence, and made the delivery. Or rather, a double delivery, of identical twin girls.

But the joy of this was tempered with a major worry. The babies were born prematurely. One weighed just 1¾ pounds and the other just 2¼ pounds.

Bennett, doing all he could to save the girls, made a makeshift incubator out of two cigar boxes placed on the door of the kitchen cook stove. Still, there was real concern the babies might not survive.

The parents, fearing time was short for their twins, felt they had to immediately give them names. So on the spur of the moment, they came up with Betty Jean and Betty Lou.

That’s right. Both girls were given the first name of Betty.

Listen to Mom’s voice

Bennett came to the Thompson home every day for six weeks to check on the babies and give advice to the new parents. And the girls not only lived, they grew up just fine.

You’d think, though, that there’d be confusion with two Bettys in the house. Of course, people often would use both names – Betty Jean or Betty Lou. But their mom also had a distinctive tone to her voice for each girl, so when she said “Betty” one way, Betty Jean knew she meant her, and if she said “Betty” the other way, Betty Lou knew she meant her.

In 1939, the family moved to West Fargo, where the girls graduated from high school in 1941.

When they were 20, both married. And this complicated things even more, because they married cousins: Betty Lou to Ernie Pyle and Betty Jean to Harvey Pyle.

So now there were two Betty Pyles.

Five children each

Both couples went on to have children. And both had the same number: five.

These are Betty Lou and Ernie’s children: Ken, Fort Smith, Ark.; Dick, Captiva Island, Fla.; Jerry, Redmond, Wash.; Bob, Casselton, N.D., and Marcia Anderson, deceased.

Betty Jean and Harvey’s children are Doris Heroff, Pelican Rapids, Minn.; Harvey, Casselton; Lester, Pittsburgh; Diane Cole, Chicago; and Ernie, Fergus Falls, Minn.

Both Betty Lou’s and Betty Jean’s husbands now are deceased. Betty Lou is a permanent resident of Fort Myers, Fla., while Betty Jean spends her winters in Fort Myers and her summers at Pelican Rapids.

Birthday cruise

Information on the twins comes from Dolores Thoms, West Fargo, who is Betty Lou’s sister-in-law.

Dolores says the twins’ lives “have been interesting in many ways.” That’s because these women don’t know how to slow down.

On their 85th birthday, they strongly considered bungee jumping. Well, they didn’t. But they have celebrated their birthday by taking hot air balloon rides and parasailing.

They observed their 90th birthday this fall in a big way: They took a 17-day cruise on the Rhine and Danube rivers in Europe, and the cruise people set up one night as “The Twins Birthday Supper.”

The women’s first words upon getting home? “It was a trip of a lifetime.”

And it’s been some lifetime for these twins; both named Betty, who began life partially through the use of a cigar box incubator in Aneta.


If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to (701) 241-5487; or email blind@forumcomm.com