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Oldest living conjoined twins, Lori and George Schappell, die at 62

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LA Post: Oldest living conjoined twins, Lori and George Schappell, die at 62
April 13, 2024
AP

READING, Pa. (AP) — Conjoined twins Lori and George Schappell, who pursued separate careers, interests and relationships during lives that defied medical expectations, died this month in Pennsylvania, according to funeral home officials. They were 62.

The twins, listed by Guinness World Records as the oldest living conjoined twins, died April 7 at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, according to obituaries posted by Leibensperger Funeral Homes of Hamburg. The cause of death was not detailed.

“When we were born, the doctors didn’t think we’d make 30, but we proved them wrong,” Lori said in an interview when they turned 50, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. George came out as transgender in 2007.

The twins, born Sept. 18, 1961, in West Reading, Pennsylvania, had distinct brains but were joined at the skull. George, who had spina bifida and was 4 inches shorter, was wheeled around by Lori on an adaptive wheeled stool. Despite each having to go where the other went, it was “very important” to both “to live as independently as possible,” the obituary said.

Both graduated from a public high school and took college classes. George went along for six years as Lori worked in a hospital laundry. Lori — “a trophy-winning bowler,” according to the obituary notice — gave up the job in 1996 so her sibling could launch a country music career.

“Since the age of 24, they have maintained their own residence and have traveled extensively,” the obituary notice said. Over the years, they appeared in many documentaries and talk shows, as well as in an episode of the FX medical drama “Nip/Tuck.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Lori was once engaged to be married but that her fiance died in an automobile accident.

“When I went on dates,” Lori said, “George would bring along books to read.”

The twins said in a 1997 documentary that they had different bathing schedules and showered one at a time. George spoke of giving someone you love and respect “the privacy and compromise in situations that you would want them to give you.” Lori said compromise meant "you don’t get everything you want right when you want it.”

Conjoined twins occur once in every 50,000 to 60,000 births when identical twins from a single embryo fail to separate. About 70% are female, and most are stillborn. Only a small percentage are joined at the head, with nearly three-quarters joined at the chest and others at the abdomen or pelvis.

Separation was deemed risky for the Schappell twins, but Lori Schappell told The Associated Press in a 2002 interview at the twins’ apartment in a high-rise seniors complex that she didn't think such an operation was necessary in any case.

“You don’t mess with what God made, even if it means you enjoy both children for a shorter time,” she said. In the 1997 documentary, George also strongly ruled out the idea of separation, saying, “Why fix what is not broken?”

It isn't immediately clear who will now take the title of oldest living conjoined twins. The oldest ever documented were Ronnie and Donnie Galyon, who died in 2020 at age 68. Eng and Chang Bunker, the 19th century “Siamese Twins” who gained fame as a circus act, lived to be 63.

The Schappell twins' survivors include their father and six siblings. Private services are planned, the funeral home said.

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