ELMHURST – As twin sisters, 96-year-old Tracie Banser and Yolanda (Lonnie) Buseman have been nearly inseparable for much of their lives.
“We’ve only been separated when she got married,” says Lonnie. “We didn’t dress alike any more, but we would call each other up every day.”
“We were very, very close,” recalls Tracie. “We never were alone. I went someplace, she went with me. We’d go together all the time. We just didn’t feel right going any place by ourselves.”
Tracie and Lonnie were born on Oct. 1, 1920, in Matoka, W.Va., a small town in the southern part of the state.
“We were very, very close. We never were alone. I went someplace, she went with me. We’d go together all the time. We just didn’t feel right going any place by ourselves.”
When they were in their teens, the twin sisters moved to the Chicago area where, as identical twins, they enjoyed trading places to see if their unsuspecting victims would notice.
Lonnie recalled the time she and Tracie were on a double date with their boyfriends at the Aragon Ballroom.
“We danced all evening, changed partners and had a great time,” says Lonnie. “They did not know who they were dancing with, at least ‘til we got home and kissed us good night (when we told them). They got very angry and said they weren’t going to ask us out again if we ever did that again.”
Tracie ended up marrying her real boyfriend from that double date, Anthony (Tony) Falduto, in 1942. They were married for 25 years until Tony passed away. Tracie later re-married – her husband of 12 years, Henry Banser, died in 1981.
Tracie, who has three daughters and three granddaughters, is also proud to note that while working in the personnel office at Motorola, she sold war bonds to employees to support the country during World War II.
Lonnie and Onno Buseman married in 1947 and were together until 2002 (55 years), when Onno passed away.
Lonnie, who has three daughters and two sons, and six grandchildren, was a part of history at Motorola, where she was part of the team that built the first Motorola TV that came off the production line in 1949.
Tracie and Lonnie have done just about everything together, including staying healthy. They acknowledge good genes have a lot to do with their good health and longevity, but they also credit:
• A very positive family life during childhood
• Maintaining that happiness as adults
• Healthy diet
• Staying active
• Having friends
Tracie and Lonnie said they were very happy all of their young lives. They both said their mom and dad were wonderful and that even though they were a family of nine, they did not want for anything.
“We were just happy people,” they said.
The twins live in separate units at the Lexington Square Senior Living Community in Elmhurst – Tracie since 1998, Lonnie since 2000. They check in with each other every morning and are very active – swimming, exercising, dancing, playing cards (to keep the mind active) and helping at bingo.
Prior to moving into Lexington Square, the twin sisters lived most of their adult lives in Chicago’s western suburbs – Tracie in Oak Brook and Westchester, Lonnie in Franklin Park.
The twins said their health histories, fortunately, have been largely uneventful.
In 2014, Tracie had a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) to treat advanced aortic stenosis, a dangerous narrowing of the aortic valve that affects blood flow. A year before, she had a pacemaker implanted to maintain a normal heartbeat.
“These women were actively involved in their own health care and decision-making. They accepted the need for surgery, and were steadfast in their desire to overcome this obstacle and move on.”
And, in keeping with their history of doing everything together, the twin sisters each had surgery to remove their gall bladder – Lonnie in July 2015 and Tracie in January 2017. Both procedures, naturally, were performed by the same physician, Brian McCann, MD, a general surgeon with Elmhurst Clinic.
“Operations like this in nonagenarians (people in their 90s) were nearly unheard of just a decade ago,” Dr. McCann said. “Our assessment of patients nowadays is not simply of a chronological nature. These women were actively involved in their own health care and decision-making. They accepted the need for surgery, and were steadfast in their desire to overcome this obstacle and move on.
“As a parent of identical twins myself, I understand that their own ‘universe’ together is very special. For them to be able to be at each other’s side for these challenging times in their lives was wonderful to observe. They are models of family and friendship in our community.”