Bio: Seeman, Hazel (101 year old Twin - 2014)
Surnames: Strey, Domine, Seeman
----Source: Tribune/Record Gleaner (Abbotsford, Clark County, Wis.) 16 Jul 2014
Ever since they were little girls growing up -- which was quite some time ago now -- Helen and Hazel Strey liked to giggle. All they had to do was catch each other’s eye, and their mischievous laughter would start.
They still do it, Helen Domine and Hazel Seeman, giggle, that is. At 101 years old as of Friday, July 11, the twins, separated in age by just five minutes, look each other in the eyes and grin. They’ve each been through a lot since 1913, but they always find a reason to giggle.
Helen -- the older of the pair -- lives now with her daughter, Barbara Dux, in Marshfield. Hazel and her husband, Marvin Seeman, reside at Stoney River Assisted Living just across town. They get together when they can, as they did last week on their birthday, to reminisce about their beloved parents, growing up through times of Depression and war, and making their way through life.
Helen and Hazel almost didn’t grow up as twins at all. After Helen was born, Hazel came a few minutes later but was weak and almost did not survive. The doctor had a choice to make, Helen said, whether he should try to help her little twin sister to live, or just let her go.
“She had a lot of health issues from that point on,” her big sister said.
Indeed, Hazel had diphtheria at age nine, and false teeth by 11. She was often so ill, she’d cry for long spells.
“I screamed my tonsils out,” she said. The girls attended Romadka School in rural Granton through eighth grade, then each went to live with another family to help care for elderly folks. Helen went to live with a senior couple just to help look after them, wash dishes, and make the beds. Some of the money she made went back home to help her parents care for their 11 children.
“It was time for me to go to work and earn a little money,” she said of leaving home as a teen. “We had a lot of other kids growing up that needed things, too.” Hazel also went to live with a family, in Nekoosa. She too gave some of her earnings to her family.
Decades after their passing, Helen’s and Hazel’s parents are fondly remembered by their twin daughters. Despite tough economic times, it was a happy upbringing, the sisters say. There was food on the table, a tree at Christmas, and joy around the home -- especially for the two spunky girls.
Hazel and Helen still sparkle when they tell about the time neighbors were over to their farm for annual threshing work. Their mother had to prepare a meal for the work crew, and the twins were called upon for kitchen duty. As Hazel was carrying a large stack of dishes, she looked at Helen. Giggles ensued, causing Hazel to drop her load into a pile of breaking dishware.
“I looked at her and we started laughing and I dropped all our dishes,” Hazel says, a grin coming again maybe 90 years after the incident. “Daddy said if he had time, he’d spank us.”
On another occasion, the girls climbed into an old dump truck their father had. It was there, so why not try it out.
“Daddy was in the barn somewhere and Mommy was in the house and me and Hazel decided to take a ride,” Helen said. “We took it for a spin around the block. We had to stretch our legs a long way (to reach the pedals).” Helen and Hazel were the third and fourth oldest of Anna and Robert Strey’s 11 kids, eight of whom survive yet today. Elsie, the oldest, came within six months of reaching 100 before she passed on a few years ago, and Ernie, the second oldest, was just a few weeks short of 101 when he died.
Theirs was a childhood of a dog named Fido, of playing ball, of throwing bean bags over the shed. They had a pony, which on one certain occasion, they weren’t supposed to ride. They did anyway.
“When Daddy went to town we weren’t supposed to take the pony out,” Helen said. They saddled it up despite orders not to and took a ride to a neighbor’s house, where a dog chased them causing Hazel to fall off and break her arm.
Hazel and Helen did not have to help in the barn, but were their mother’s helpers for household chores. From her they learned a strong work ethic.
“She worked all day and she still baked cookies and doughnuts for dinner,” Hazel said. “She never went to bed without scrubbing the fl oors. She had a big garden and we had lots of vegetables. She also canned berries. She’d get her big cupboard full and she’d be so proud of it. She was a saint.”
“She was a very good person,” Helen adds. “Wish we’d have been half that good.”
Of their father, the twins especially remember the ire they’d raise in him with their constant giggles.
“They had a hard time keeping us from giggling,” Helen said. “We’d just look at each other and start.”
“You crazy kids,” their father would say.
“He’d set us on different chairs. Of course, that didn’t do no good,” Helen said. “He’d just have to let us sit there and giggle it out. The more we’d giggle, the madder he got until he just walked away.”
After moving from the family home, Helen worked for a dentist for a few years until marrying Manuial Domine, a local lad who lived just a mile or two down the road from the Strey farm. When World War II broke out, they moved to Milwaukee, where Manuial worked at a foundry.
Hazel also wound up in Milwaukee during war time, where she worked at a leather factory making raincoats for soldiers. Hazel also worked for a doctor at a private hospital in Milwaukee.
Helen’s husband worked in Milwaukee for a short time after the war, but longed to have his own business. That brought the couple back to Loyal, where he opened the service station that would support the family for years to come.
“The war was over and Grandpa wanted to start a business,” Helen said of her husband. “He didn’t want to work out. He had to take orders from people and he didn’t like that.”
Hazel also made her way back to Loyal, where she met Marvin Seeman, at where else but Helen’s house. Hazel had started a dress shop in Loyal, but turned it over to Helen when she married Marvin. For Helen, that began a career of about 26 years in owning Helen’s Style Shop.
The shop was located in several locations in Loyal, with the last next to Zepplin’s Furniture. She started in business around 1950, and often had to travel to Minneapolis or Chicago to buy the styles to fi ll her racks.
“Some salesman came around, but not enough,” Helen said. “I had to go to Minneapolis to pick them up.”
She’d leave Loyal at 4 a.m., and return home at midnight after an exhausting day of driving and shopping. She’d often buy more outfi ts than she could fi t in her car, and had the rest shipped.
Helen often took a friend along, and was known to drive the route to the cities at a pretty good clip. Did she ever get a speeding ticket on one of her excursions?
“They couldn’t catch me,” she says.
Helen remained in business until 1976, when a fall on a slippery hill injured her back. She sold her store to Jeannette Cole after making a good living by learning what her customers liked.
“I knew my crowd so well that I’d pick out clothes and they always took them,” Helen said. “That’s why I had the business I had.”
Helen and Manuial raised four children -- Shirley, who now lives in Milwaukee; Ronnie, of Mosinee; Bobby, who lives in Loyal; and Barbara, of Marshfield. Manuial passed away in 1996. Helen has 15 grandchildren and approximately 20 great-grandchildren.
Hazel and Marvin did not have children. His career as a cheesemaker took the couple to St. Croix Falls, Spring Valley and Merrill through the years.
Helen and Hazel have remained close through the years. Although the miles often separated them, they retained the tie that only twins know. Their parents encouraged them to love each of their siblings equally, Hazel said, but their connection as twins always bound them close.
“We used to take Hazel and Marvin and put them in the rumble seat (of Manuial’s Model A Ford),” Helen said.
“We always were together when we could be,” Hazel said. “We were closer than we were to the other kids. We still are.”
The changes in life and society have been too vast for Hazel and Helen to single out as the most memorable of their lifetimes. Hazel said she misses the simplicity of life in bygone days, and said the world today is “upside down and inside out.” Religion is not as important as it should be, she says, and most people today are not sincere in their faith.
“They’re making believe they’re religious and there’s nothing behind it,” she says.
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