They all graduated from IU School of Nursing; they’ve stood up at each other’s weddings; they’ve been there for the births of their children; and they travel together on family vacations. These three sisters also work together at IU Health Simon Cancer Center.
Twins Jennifer Hilton and Janet Flynn, both 64, join younger sibling Jill Weisenbach, 58, caring for oncology patients. A brother, Jeff is 11 months older than the twins. All four siblings share the initials “J.R.”
Ask them how long they’ve been at IU Health and like sisters, they quibble about the dates, but between them agree that Hilton, a nurse coordinator, and Flynn, a research nurse, started in 1975, and Weisenbach started in 1982.
The twins were born in Ohio, to Robert and Shirley Dufek, both deceased. Robert was in the service at the time and shortly after they were born, they moved to Indianapolis.
“With three kids under a year old, they needed help so they moved back home where they could be closer to family,” said Flynn. Their mom retired from IU Health as a medical secretary.
“Everyone loved mom to pieces. She was a great cook and was always bringing homemade soups or fudge to work,” said Hilton. “She was also very artistic and was always crocheting or making flower arrangements. We never took after her in that way but we were always super close growing up. I know she’d be proud.”
Shirley Dufek loved dressing the two older sisters alike and taking them to twin events in various cities. The look-alike dressing continued until they were old enough to babysit and buy their own clothes.
“I got the hand-me-downs and there were two of everything,” said Weisenbach, who decided she wanted to become a nurse during an eighth grade health class. The twins can’t remember when they decided to pursue nursing but they also say they can’t remember wanting to do anything else.
“Our parents went through a divorce and our mom pretty much told us when we were in high school that she wanted us to do something where we could take care of ourselves,” said Flynn. “It’s a good thing she did because we’re all three divorced,” added Hilton.
As students at IUPUI, Hilton and Flynn drove to campus together and shared the same classes.
“We were so equal. One wasn’t any better than the other in a subject. We just stuck together,” said Hilton. And there are other commonalities.
Weisenbach is a lung cancer survivor. All three women were former smokers who kicked the habit. They spent childhood vacations at Indiana Beach and continue the tradition with their extended families. Hilton and Flynn both have one child, three months and 21 days apart. They both have one grandchild. Weisenbach has two daughters ages 22 and 25.
The twins, who live a mile apart, enjoy line dancing lessons and exercising together at the gym. When they dine at their favorite Vietnamese restaurant the server looks at them both and says: “#92 with diet drinks?”
“We once went car shopping together and of course we argue a lot,” said Hilton, laughing. “We both wanted light blue VW Beetle convertibles and neither one of us would change our minds so we both left the lot with light blue VW Beetle convertibles.”
On several occasions, the identical twins have participated in genetic studies at IU Health and have also joined in fundraising events for cancer.
“I tell people if they see someone who looks like me, then it’s probably my sister,” said Flynn. More than once, a patient has accused her of changing her look in a single day. She laughs and says, “I have a twin and then . . . there’s sister Number three.”
-- By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Banes via email at T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.