No fooling

Published 11:28 am Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Twins Nather Gray, left, and Nancy Coley share a photo from when they were 20 years olds. Nather is on the left.| Gwen Albers/Tidewater News

Twins feted on their 80th birthdays

FRANKLIN—Twins Nather Gray and Nancy Coley quit dressing alike after high school.

On Sunday, they wore identical outfits, at their children’s request, for their 80th birthday party.

Four generations gathered at The Village at Woods Edge in Franklin to honor the twins born on April Fool’s Day 1932.

Gray and Coley say they’ve always been best friends and never had an argument. A petite 5-foot-1 and less than 100 pounds each, the girls and their families annually took vacations to Nags Head, N.C., and celebrated Christmas at Coley’s Hunterdale home.

Today, Coley lives at The Village and Gray in Kill Devil Hills, N.C. Even though they don’t see each other as much as they’d like, they talk on the phone every evening.

Born in Lynchburg, the girls came from a family of seven. They were the third and fourth born.

Before their one-month premature birth, the doctor indicated he heard only one heartbeat, so he believed the twins would be a boy and a girl. Their parents planned to name them Nathan and Nancy.

When the twins were born, their father thought it was an April Fool’s joke when he got two girls. The name Nathan was changed to Nather.

Coley and Gray moved to Suffolk when they were 2 and graduated from the former Holland High School in 1949.

“They were beautiful girls,” said niece Pam Askew of Suffolk. “To go out with one of the Crutchlow girls, you had to be someone. And they were the sweetest, kindest girls.”

Although their two older siblings went to college, the twins did not.

“Mother and Daddy with all of those children couldn’t afford it,” Gray said.

Both worked for separate state agencies, married, waited five years to have children and then had six children within seven years.

“Growing up with them was like having two moms,” said Coley’s son Marvin Best, 49, of Courtland. “They were around all the time, and they always knew what you were doing.”

Nather and Hugh Gray from Newsoms married 61 years ago and are the parents of Jeff Gray, 55, of Virginia Beach and Cindy Ward, 53, of Columbia, S.C.

Coley married her childhood sweetheart, Marvin Best, and they had four children before he was killed in a car accident at age 38. The children were between 5 and 10 years old at the time.

The widow was remarried to Jack Coley, who died four years ago in his sleep.

Nancy Coley’s other children are Lorraine Musselman, 53, of Fayetteville, Ga.; Jane Bryant, 51, of Franklin; Chris Coley, 40, of Richmond; and the late Julie Benton.