Jeff Roswell was telling his old friend, Don Scull, about this great girl Roswell was dating, Patty Belisle. So Scull jokingly asked a question:
“Does she have a twin?” Scull asked. But his buddy’s answer was no joke. “He said, ‘Yeah, she does.’”
Gloria and Patty Belisle were identical twins — so identical, Patty says even she can’t tell who’s who in some pictures. And after Scull, who had been in the U.S. Air Force in South Carolina, got out and came home to South Jersey, he got set up for a blind double date with Gloria, her twin and his friend.
Gloria and Don got along and started dating. And they kept going out until 1993, when they got married, two years after Patty and Jeff Roswell’s wedding.
So Gloria and Don, of Absecon, were married 19 years when Gloria died of cancer in September, just six months after the twins turned 50.
The Sculls have three daughters, Rebecca, Jessica and Marissa, now 17, 15 and 13. And Gloria liked being a stay-at-home mom for her girls, but she kept getting job offers anywhere she shopped.
She’d been a bus greeter at Bally’s Atlantic City when she and Don met, and “we were really good at customer service,” says Patty Roswell, a former bus-greeter herself, who lives in Galloway Township — a mile or so from her twin’s home.
The twins and their 15-months-older sister, Catherine, had traveled the world with their parents, Bob and Gloria — Bob was a Navy man, then a civilian specializing in helicopter electronics. The Belisle girls did two years of grade school in Japan, and high school was in Rome. So they were the new kids their whole lives, and they learned to make friends fast.
When she could finally settle down as an adult, Gloria got a job at the ShopRite deli where she bought the family’s lunchmeat. After another pregnancy, the Babies ‘R’ Us recruited her. Then she got a job at her kids’ day-care center.
“She always had a smile on her face, and everyone liked her,” Don says. “They wanted her to work there because she was always smiling.”
Gloria managed to keep that approach going even when she was diagnosed with advanced cancer in 2010.
“She wouldn’t let cancer define her. She used her sense of humor the whole time,” says Catherine Belisle, the big sister, of Parkland, Fla. “All the doctors and nurses couldn’t believe her positive attitude.”
Gloria fought her cancer for more than two years — and was cancer-free for a few blessed months last year. But by last November, it was back.
Gloria kept fighting, with help from her whole family. And at her crowded funeral services, her sister remembers this clearly:
“Her sense of humor, and her laughter,” Catherine says. “That was all you heard about her.”
A Life Lived appears Tuesdays and Saturdays.
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