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A doubly special day for Polish twins Sisters are thrilled that their 100th birthdays coincide with Dyngus Day

What a treat it is to have a set of Polish twins celebrate their birthdays together today -- on Dyngus Day.

But you'd have to find a birthday cake that could hold 200 candles for fraternal twins Pauline Dommer and Sister Marietta Pawlowski.

Both women turn 100 today, and the family got an early start on the twin celebration in Dommer's North Buffalo home Easter Sunday.

The two women remain pretty talkative, sharp and loving toward each other -- until you ask them which one is older.

"I say I am. She says she is," Sister Marietta said.

"I think I am," Dommer replied quickly.

And who gets the final word?

"I do, because I'm older," Dommer quipped.

Then she got serious.

"We don't know. Our mother never told us who was first."

Born on April 25, 1911, in the middle of President William Howard Taft's only term, the sisters grew up on Roseville Street, near the old Larkin Soap Co. But their lives took divergent paths after they attended SS. Peter & Paul School on Clinton Street.

"God called me after eighth grade," Sister Marietta said. That's when she entered the convent on her way to becoming a Felician nun.

For years, she taught school, in the Villa Maria Convent and in Olean. Next month, she will celebrate her 82nd year of religious service.

The twins' father died when they were 2. Dommer didn't attend high school either, staying home to help their mother and a younger sister. Armed with a strong Polish work ethic, she later worked for 32 years as a bookbinder at Arcata Graphics.

"I used to pull a wagon to the Broadway Market and fill it with food," Dommer recalled of a routine that started when she was 10. "Nothing special. The usual -- meat, sausage, bread, stuff like that."

The women had vastly different thoughts on their recipes for living so long.

"I know I mind my own business," Dommer said. "I don't butt into anyone's affairs."

She also mentioned how much she's enjoyed her life, with her lively friends and family. Those good times have included plenty of trips to the casino and at least a few sips of Manhattans.

Does she plan to have a drink today on her birthday?

"Why wait until tomorrow?" she said Sunday. "Today is another day."

She later corrected herself.

"I don't want to drink Manhattans," she said. "I don't want to get drunk. Just a taste."

Sister Marietta, not so quick with the quips, gave a different reason for her longevity:

"Because God doesn't want me yet -- and [by] staying good."

The contrasts between the sisters may not be quite as sharp as they seem.

Family members confided that both sisters would have entered the convent, if possible, if Pauline hadn't been needed at home. Dommer said that God has been good to her, too, and that she loves to pray and go to church.

Dommer's family also admitted sneaking some brandy into the convent for Sister Marietta, their great-aunt. At least they smuggled the right brand -- Christian Brothers.

There are plenty of surviving relatives. Although Dommer's husband, Theodore, died in 1973, he had five brothers. Pauline and Theodore Dommer had two children, one who died in infancy and another son, Joseph, who died in 1972. But the couple has four grandsons, along with their spouses.

How unique are 100-year-old twins?

They're believed to be among only a handful of twins over 100 still living in the U.S. One grandson, Michael, pulled out a Wikipedia list showing 19 pairs of twins over 100 still living in the world, including eight in the U.S. It's unclear how accurate or up-to-date that is.

The sisters are having fun with all the ruckus over their 100th birthdays, including a Buffalo News interview Sunday and some live shots scheduled this morning on Channel 2's "Daybreak."

Other events today include a family birthday party in the Villa Maria Convent and the serenading of the two birthday girls at the Dyngus Day celebration in the Knights of Columbus Hall.

How about the coincidence of having their 100th birthdays on Dyngus Day?

"They're thrilled," grandson Christopher Dommer said. "It's their Polish pride."

They're not the only ones thrilled.

"To have those two together as long as we have, it's something we're very thankful for," said another grandson, Eric Dommer.

There's a lesson there, for all families.

"Celebrate family as long as you can," Eric Dommer said. "There's always an opportunity to say you can do it later. Enjoy family when you have the time. Make the time."

Pauline Dommer clearly relished the idea of being interviewed. She especially had fun when asked whether she planned to adhere to the tradition and chase any men today on Dyngus Day.

She'd prefer a younger man, anyone down to about age 75.

"I have no boyfriends," she said. "They're all younger than I am, and they don't want to bother with me."

Sister Marietta got in the last word, chastising an interviewer for his pen posture.

"You're holding the pen [down] too far," she said.

Ever the teacher.

e-mail: gwarner@buffnews.com

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