Top News

Twins, teachers, scholars, world travellers: Corner Brook's Cossitt sisters celebrate 90th birthday during pandemic

Térèse Cossitt (left) and her twin sister, Mary, will celebrate their 90th birthday on Wednesday. The Cossitts are from Corner Brook. Diane Crocker/SaltWire Network
Térèse Cossitt (left) and her twin sister, Mary, will celebrate their 90th birthday on Wednesday. The Cossitts are from Corner Brook. — Diane Crocker/SaltWire Network
CORNER BROOK, N.L. —

They were born five minutes apart and Mary Cossitt figures that makes her the boss.

Her twin, Térèse, laughs at the notion as the two sisters chat from the doorway of their Corner Brook home.

On Wednesday, they will celebrate their 90th birthday. It’ll be a little different than their others because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I can’t believe that we’re going to be 90,” said Mary, who adds neither of them feel that old. “It’s not too bad, but it came awfully fast.”

She certainly never thought they’d celebrate turning 90 when the world was shut down. It won’t matter too much, because they’ll be together, just like they’ve always been.

“You don’t know how good it is to have someone to share it with,” said Mary.


Corner Brook twins Mary (left) and Térèse Cossitt. CONTRIBUTED
Corner Brook twins Mary (left) and Térèse Cossitt. CONTRIBUTED


Mary and Térèse were born in Corner Brook on May 20, 1930.

Their dad, William (Bill) Cossitt, was from Nova Scotia and came to Newfoundland to work at the paper mill in Corner Brook. Their mom, Kathleen (Kennedy) Cossitt, was from Curling. The city was really just starting up when the Cossitts were children.

“You knew everybody, and that was nice. You knew all your neighbours. It was a nice place to grow up in.”

The COVID-19 pandemic is not the only big event in history the sisters have lived through.

“We were quite young when the Second World War broke out, and that was quite unusual for children to deal with.”


Térèse (left) and Mary Cossitt as young girls. CONTRIBUTED
Térèse (left) and Mary Cossitt as young girls. CONTRIBUTED


She remembers a Sunday afternoon when they were about eight or nine and the boys from the area who had signed up for the 166th Newfoundland Field Regiment were going to the railway station to head to war.

There was a big parade that started at the Goodhouse Building on West Street and everyone was there — families, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides and Brownies.

“We walked down West Street, then down to Main Street and we walked with the men right down to the railway station. I’ll never forget it. It was very moving. It was quite interesting to be down there at the railway station waving goodbye to them.”

As twins, Mary said, their personalities are the same.

“We’re pretty much alike in everything and we like the same things. We get along very well. We’ve always been real good friends besides being sisters.”


One of a few graduation pictures that twins Mary (left) and Térèse Cossitt of Corner Brook have had taken over the years. CONTRIBUTED
One of a few graduation pictures that twins Mary (left) and Térèse Cossitt of Corner Brook have had taken over the years. CONTRIBUTED


While it may not seem like it, she said she and Térèse have always been independent of each other.

The Cossitts left Corner Brook in 1947 to attend Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax. Both completed bachelor of arts degrees and went on to study education.

After five years they weren’t sure if they would look for work or continue studying, but decided they’d better get to work, and interviewed for positions with a new Department of National Defence school in Dartmouth.

“And the next thing we knew the two of us were hired.”

They stayed at the school for two years, teaching children from all over the world. Then they acted on the advice of their dad and went west.

They hadn’t applied to work at any schools and stopped in Edmonton on a Saturday night. On Sunday they visited with a friend.

“On Tuesday I was on a bus going out to a school to teach and the next day Térèse was on the bus.”


Another of Mary (left) and Térèse Cossitt's graduation pictures. CONTRIBUTED
Another of Mary (left) and Térèse Cossitt's graduation pictures. CONTRIBUTED


They spent 34 years in Edmonton, teaching at Catholic schools and at the University of Alberta, and continuing to further their own educations. That included graduate school for both, and degrees in religion and theology for Térèse, who also taught at the Newman Theological College.

The sisters never married and travelled the world.

“We were able to do it because we didn’t have responsibilities, really,” said Mary.

In 1988, after years of hard work, they retired early and returned to Corner Brook. Mary said they thought if it didn’t work out they could go back to Halifax or Edmonton.

“But we came home and as soon as we got home we knew we made the right decision.”

Térèse has some dementia, but the sisters continue to live in their own home.

“We’ve had an interesting life,” said Mary, who is positive they wouldn’t have done it any other way.

“We always got along well together. We didn’t always agree on everything,” she said with a laugh, “but we got along well.”


Twins Térèse (left) and Mary Cossitt of Corner Brook. CONTRIBUTED
Twins Térèse (left) and Mary Cossitt of Corner Brook. CONTRIBUTED


This birthday will be different, as quite often the sisters would take a trip to celebrate.

“We’ll do something later on when everything is lifted, and everybody is free to get around,” said Mary.

Until then, they have their own “double bubble” with their neighbours, Glenda and Vance Belbin, and their son, Neil.

Glenda said the sisters are the first and only ones her family would take into its bubble.

“I want to make sure they stay as healthy as us.”

Their friendship started when the sisters moved across the street.


"We didn’t always agree on everything, but we got along well.” — Mary Cossitt


“Once they moved in I went over with muffins for them, welcomed them to the neighbourhood. And our friendship started from there. They’re like family.”

There have been many shared meals and drives over the years and a few road trips for Glenda, Mary and Térèse. She said the sisters are outgoing and young at heart. “And oh, the stories they can tell.”

Glenda wants to make sure their special day doesn’t go by without some celebration, and will order in a birthday supper for them.

Mary says she is thankful for all Glenda and her family do for her and Térèse.

“It’s nice that they’re there and they’re really, really helpful. They really look after us,” said Mary.

Twitter: @WS_DianeCrocker


RELATED:

Did this story inform or enhance your perspective on this subject?
1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

Recent Stories