Column: Twins will celebrate 100th birthday this month

Emma Weiss, left, and Anna Parker have a special birthday celebration coming up.

Courtesy photo

Emma Weiss, left, and Anna Parker have a special birthday celebration coming up.

Anna Parker was born May 22, 1917, in Chicago. Emma Weiss was born on that same date, also in Chicago. Now, your response, coupled with a yawn, is probably: “So what?” After all, lots of other people no doubt were born that day in the Windy City. But here’s the kicker: both Anna and Emma were born to Bertha and Bert Berger, and those twin sisters are now living the good life under the same roof in Prescott, Arizona, while gearing up to observe their 100th birthday later this month.

Actually, that “under the same roof” reference could be questioned by you purists out there, but it’s true because I’m talking about a really big roof that covers the Good Samaritan Society complex on Scott Drive. The sisters, you see, occupy their own separate apartments a short hallway trek from each other, so visitations between the two are an ever-lovin’ snap! And it marks the first time since their post-high school days that they’ve been back together at the same location since Anna departed for nursing school and Emma to business college. Anna was the first to settle at Good Samaritan — moving there in 1993 — whereas Emma took up residence in 2010.

Backgrounding, I’ll focus first on Anna, who served as a Navy nurse during World War II. She came to Yavapai County from Idaho in 1969 and worked as the school nurse at Mayer’s Orme School, and it was there, during her three years on the job, that she met her second husband. (Her first marriage had ended in divorce). Her new husband was the Rev. Dr. Charles Franklin Parker, who was minister of Prescott’s First Congregational Church for almost 30 years before resigning in 1962 to become the founding president of Prescott College. (As an aside, he was also a Courier columnist who wrote insightful articles under the heading of “Or So It Seems to Me.”) Anna, meanwhile, served for some 20 years as the organist at Prescott’s Disciples of Christ church at Willow Creek Road and Black Drive. They resided in Antelope Hills, near the Prescott municipal airport, until Rev. Parker’s death in 1983, and Anna subsequently relocated to Good Sam, as noted, in 1993.

Anna can rightly be described as a “free spirit,” in that in May of last year — at 99 years of age — she took advantage of her Navy Nurse Corps service to embark on an Honor Flight Arizona trip to Washington, D.C., to view the World War II memorial along with other memorials and sights. Her caregiver on the adventure was Jon Pennell, the younger of her two sons from her first marriage. It was a “once in a lifetime” experience, she said.

And Emma? Well, like sis Anna, she has never let any grass grow under her feet. Following her graduation from business college she worked at the Hammond Instrument Co. as secretary to Laurens Hammond, inventor of the Hammond organ, the Hammond Clock, and — thanks to Googling — “the world’s first polyphonic synthesizer, the Novachord.” But during the war, Emma noted, organ manufacturing was discontinued and replaced with secret war apparatus pursuits. For example, Mr. Hammond was among the first guided missile engineers of that era and Gen. “Hap” Arnold visited the Hammond operation and gave permission for what became successful missile testing in the Atlantic’s North Sea.

Emma subsequently left the Hammond company prior to getting married in Chicago in 1946 to George Weiss, a Lutheran church chaplain. (Both she and Anna were raised in the Lutheran tradition, so you might say that it was a marriage made in heaven. And add to that their current residency at the Good Samaritan complex, which is across Scott Drive from the American Lutheran Church. Talk about serendipity!) Emma’s honeymoon, incidentally, can only be described as adventuresome. She and her new husband, you see, left Chicago in order to resettle in Seattle, Washington, and their mode of conveyance was a 1931 Model A Ford! The trip encompassed nine days and the Model A performed quite well, with the only problem of note involving a fuel pump that failed and had to be replaced. And, amazingly, the car’s radiator never boiled over and there were only two flat tires to contend with on the entire trip. (Frankly, I think that divine intervention played a major role in their odyssey.)

During Emma’s and George’s time in Seattle, sister Anna was stationed at that city’s naval hospital and she was attending the church where George was assistant pastor. And so it was that when it came time for Anna’s wedding to her “Navy man,” Virgil Pennell, brother-in-law George presided over their exchanging of vows.

How tidy can you get?

Contact the columnist at editorial@prescottaz.com.