Twins celebrate 95th birthday together

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

It was a day for hugs and happy birthdays for Wilma Rees and Amelia Kizer at Casa del Rio Senior Living Center in Peoria Thursday.

“It is our 95th birthday. Who would ever think we would live to be this old?” asks Wilma with a smile.

Actually, almost anyone who meets them would say it is no wonder. Both ladies are charming and engaging as they mingle and welcome friends to the party,

And it is no wonder they are celebrating their birthday not just on the same day, but in the same place.

They have been exceptionally close all of those 95 years.

“We are twins; we just understand each other,” says Wilma.

“So you know when you need to be talking to each other?” we ask. 

“I think so,” she says.

But their journey to this place and time is also a part of American history in the 20th century.

They were born in the heartland. “We are from the small town of Burwell Nebraska,” says Wilma. “Home of Nebraska's big rodeo,” finishes Amelia.

”Population about 1,100 then, and it still is now,” continues Wilma.

“Well, a few more,”Amelia proudly throws in. After all, she still calls it home.

But at just 19 years old with World War II raging, their journey led them out of Nebraska.  Amelia first went to Washington, DC. It was her first trip to a city of any size. Until then, she had not even been to Omaha, she says. And she soon found herself working in what was then a still-under-construction Pentagon.

But when her fiancé took work as ship welder out west, she followed and convinced Wilma to come to Seattle as well, where they worked on the  B-17 flying fortress. “I worked on the tip of the wing, from the part of the motor where it stood up on end and we put the skin on it," says Wilma. “I was a rivet bucker. I held the steel bar up and a riveter used a gun on the outside.”

She says any rivet that was not perfect would have to be re-done.

Amelia worked on a different part of the plane. “I worked in the radio room, and at the time I thought the radio room was here behind the pilot, but it was actually back here and the bombs were between us,” she shows us on the small model that Boeing actually sent them for their birthday.

And while the bombs were not onboard while they worked on them, the job still had some hazards, Amelia remembers. 

“We had to wear bandanas over our head to keep our hair out of the way, and one time I had my hair sticking out and I got a drill too close to my hair; I learned my lesson.”

Yes, they truly are Rosie the Riveters. And although they worked different shifts they always stayed in touch. “We would meet in the restroom for a brief visit," says Amelia.

Granddaughter Samantha Cooley says they have always been the epitome of girl power.

“They all just did what they had to do to serve their country, they did what they had to do got up went to work they were paid equal wages like the men they did what they had to do.”

Wilma and Amelia went on to raise families after the war, and at their party Thursday, they were surrounded by family, friends and some of those other "Rosies" for their birthday.

And the crowd was all smiles, as they helped celebrate and give a double thank you to these American originals.

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