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Epilogue | Barbara Donovan

A twin, Barbara Donovan found life was a dance with sister

Brian King of Pittsburgh poses for a portrait with Elyanna Gonzalez and twin sisters Bobbie Ward, far left, and Barbara Donovan, far right, in 2004.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times (2004)

Brian King of Pittsburgh poses for a portrait with Elyanna Gonzalez and twin sisters Bobbie Ward, far left, and Barbara Donovan, far right, in 2004.

TAMPA — Barbara Donovan and Bobbie Ward were born July 22, 1933.

The birth certificate says Barbara was born 15 minutes after Bobbie. Their mother claimed it was only five.

The twins' father owned a barbershop in Ybor City, in the same building as the Columbia Restaurant. The family lived above. There was no television or air conditioning to drown out noise. But there was live music in the restaurant every night, and the sound wafted in through the windows.

They wore matching outfits until they graduated from high school. People noticed them wherever they went. When boys teased them at school, Barbara screamed and chased them. They loved it, and paid attention to her. Bobbie ignored the boys, and they ignored her right back.

They both had the measles two or three times. Bobbie always caught childhood diseases first. Barbara caught them later.

She always got sicker.

Barbara was married twice. Bobbie, just once. They both had children. Bobbie's kids called Barbara "Aunt Mama."

Barbara loved performing. She joined the circus and spent five years as a show girl. She rode an elephant and traveled through the United States and Canada.

Both twins worked for the government as secretaries. They traveled the world. Barbara was proud that she once took shorthand for an assistant U.S. secretary of state. But folks were always more impressed to hear she rode an elephant.

In 1971, Barbara caught the measles again. She called Bobbie, who was working in the Philippines. "Barbara," Bobbie told her, "I just had the measles too."

• • •

When their marriages had ended and their children were grown, they began a new adventure together — flamenco dancing lessons.

Bobbie insists they looked more like ballerinas than passionate, rhythmic stompers, but they loved the dance. They trained under Curra Alba, a widely known Tampa dancer. They performed with the Tampa Festival Folk Dancers and stomped grapes in Ybor City.

Barbara, the more domestic twin, made her own dance costumes. Barbara could style her own hair and makeup, but Bobbie needed help.

Barbara still got more attention from men. As a grown-up, she learned to ignore the advances.

In Tampa, they both had secretarial jobs at MacDill Air Force Base, but worked in separate annexes. They lived on different sides of the county. When they went shopping alone, they instinctively bought two of each item.

In May 2002, Barbara had double bypass surgery.

In June 2003, Bobbie had triple bypass surgery.

Barbara had tiny veins and a weak heart.

She always got sicker.

• • •

Now, when Bobbie looks back at Barbara in photos, she notices the thin lips.

Barbara Donovan died Tuesday. She was 74.

The headstone on Barbara's grave bears her name and the words "Ward Twins." It's in the shape of a heart, broken in half.

One day, Bobbie's grave will get the other half.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at or (727) 893-8857.


Barbara Donovan

Born: July 22, 1933.

Died: May 20, 2008.

Survivors: sons, Ernest Green, James "Andy" Green and his wife, Denise Costa; grandson, Robert A. Green; sisters, Aileen Aulick, Bobbie Ward.

A twin, Barbara Donovan found life was a dance with sister 05/24/08 [Last modified: Saturday, May 31, 2008 7:31am]
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