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Twin friars lived their lives together, died hours apart

Twins Julian and Adrian Riester became Franciscan monks together, and one was rarely seen without the other, friends say.

Special to the Times

Twins Julian and Adrian Riester became Franciscan monks together, and one was rarely seen without the other, friends say.

ST. PETERSBURG — Julian and Adrian Riester were more than just brothers and more than just identical twins.

Born moments apart 92 years ago, the boys seemed to see the world in the same way almost from the start. They played together and ordered the same foods at restaurants. After a trip to the Vatican as high school students, they both decided to commit their lives to the Catholic church.

For 65 years they worked as Franciscan monks, gardening and churning out tables and cabinets for the Roman Catholic Order of Friars Minor, including 35 years at St. Bonaventure University in St. Bonaventure, N.Y. In 2008, the twins retired together to St. Anthony Friary in St. Petersburg.

They were still together at the end. On Wednesday, they died hours apart at St. Anthony's Hospital. Both died of heart failure with different complications, said the Rev. James Toal, the guardian at St. Anthony Friary. They are survived by their five older sisters.

"It was like they were joined at the hip," said Yvonne Peace, who worked with the monks at the St. Bonaventure Friary. "If you saw one of them, you saw them both."

The twins never disclosed which of them was born first. "That was because of the fun they got out of saying, 'We're not going to tell you — but you can guess if you want to,' " said their sister Rhea Shaddock of St. Petersburg.

Jerome and Irving Riester were born March 27, 1919, in Buffalo, N.Y., the youngest of a physician's seven children. They changed their names upon joining the Franciscan order.

"Julian had a gift with his hands," said Shaddock, 96. "Adrian was interested in books and learning."

The brothers attended St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute, and might have entered the draft in the later part of World War II. They were turned down because of their eyesight, according to St. Bonaventure — one with a bad left eye, the other a bad right eye.

They joined the friars of Holy Name Province in New York City but worked together at St. Bonaventure's seminary from 1951 to 1956. They served separately in parishes in the Buffalo area for 17 years, then reunited at St. Bonaventure for 35 years.

Both were quiet, Peace said, but either would open up in one-on-one conversation. Julian seemed to play the role of the big brother.

When they drove to pick up a visitor to St. Bonaventure, Peace said, "Brother Julian was the driver and Brother Adrian was the co-pilot."

Once, the pair picked up another friar at the airport. On the way back, the friar suggested he take the brothers to dinner.

"Brother Adrian looked in brother Julian's direction," Peace said. "And brother Julian said, 'No, we will go home.' No argument or discussion whatsoever. They went home."

After retiring to St. Anthony Friary in 2008, they visited their sister and took long daily walks. They once walked almost in lockstep, but in recent years Julian's Parkinson's disease and arthritis had slowed his gait.

About a week ago, Julian fell against a wall while pushing a three-wheeled walker. Adrian tried to catch him, Toal said.

Julian Riester entered St. Anthony's Hospital. His brother was admitted a few days later.

Julian died about 4 a.m. Wednesday. Adrian died at 9 p.m., 15 hours later.

"I prayed that the Lord would call them both together," Shaddock said. "They were so much a part of one another."

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report, which also used information from the Associated Press. Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or


Julian E. and Adrian A. Riester

Born: March 27, 1919

Died: June 1, 2011

Survivors: sisters Rhea Shaddock, Eunice Riester, Adrienne Rindfuss, Julienne Riester and Virginia McCue; numerous nieces and nephews.

Service: Prayer service 4 p.m. Sunday (reception starts at 2 p.m.); St. Anthony Friary, 357 Second St. N. Funeral Mass 10 a.m. Monday ; St. Mary Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, 515 Fourth St. S, St. Petersburg.

Twin friars lived their lives together, died hours apart 06/03/11 [Last modified: Friday, June 3, 2011 11:24pm]
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