Shouts and Murmurs: Similar faces, different places
The Tonganoxie High School graduating class of 2001 is officially the "number one" class in this millennium.
This class is unique in numerous ways, among which is that in this group of 106 "number-one" graduates, there are more than the average number of "twos."
When the graduates walk across the stage Saturday evening, among them will be three sets of identical twins Sheila and Shelli Partridge, Aubrey and Ashley Mikijanis, and Mark and Dave Gepner.
In the general population, about 0.5 of 1 percent of all pregnancies result in identical twins. But at THS in the senior class this year, the rate of identical twins is about six times that.
This is all the more remarkable, considering that 18 years ago, some of these twins were miracles in themselves.
Take Sheila and Shelli Partridge, daughters of John and Marlene Partridge. Born May 8, 1983, three months before their due date, Shelli weighed 1 pound, 10 ounces and Sheila weighed 2 pounds, 1 ounce.
Their girls were so fragile that their parents didn't get to hold them until they were almost three months old.
Marlene Partridge said that at that time, no twins that small had ever survived at St. Luke's Hospital.
"They were building a new wing onto the hospital at that time and the nurses joked that they'd have to name it the 'Partridge Wing,' after Sheila and Shelli," she said.
The girls, who wore newborn-size clothing until they were 3 years old, eventually caught up with others their age in size as well as energy.
In high school, the girls have been active in drama, Chieftain Singers, flag team, forensics and debate and cheerleading. They are active members of the Jarbalo United Methodist Church and they have worked with youth groups in other congregations, as well as traveling on church missions to help the underprivileged in other states.
And soon, the girls will be leaving Tonganoxie, where Sheila will be attending Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, majoring in mass communications, and Shelli will be going to Baker University to study nursing.
Mark and Dave Gepner, born Jan. 10, 1983, are the sons of Bob and Chris Gepner. The twins both plan to attend college at Kansas State University and both plan to major in computer engineering.
Their father, Bob Gepner, said he's not surprised they're going the same direction.
"It's always been that way," Gepner said. "Similar interests and the same friends. It's been that way since they were little."
In high school, Mark and Dave have participated in soccer and track, and Mark played basketball.
It has been said that Sunday morning diners at Fourth Street Cafave thought they were seeing double.
For that's when the Mikijanis twins go to work.
Besides looking alike, the twins have identical giggles that could easily be described as contagious.
Their look-alike looks have paid off ever since the girls started working at Bitler's Barbecue.
"People would say 'Oh my gosh you always work so much,'" Ashley said. "And they'd tip me so good because they felt so bad for me, they never knew there were two of us, they just thought there was one."
The girls have been active in high school. Aubrey is class treasurer and Ashley is vice president, Ashley is also vice president of SADD, and Aubrey participated in track and cross country for three years. Ashley participated in drill team and softball.
Next fall, the girls plan to attend classes at Kansas City Kansas Community College. Aubrey's major is as yet undecided, and Ashley plans to eventually become a nurse anesthetist.
So during Saturday's graduation exercises, if you think you're seeing double, don't give it a second thought for it's likely that what you see are just the remarkable "twos" of the class of 2001.