The world’s longest-surviving conjoined twins died on July 4 at the age of 68.
Ronnie and Donnie Galyon, of Beavercreek, Ohio, were born joined at the abdomen on Oct. 28, 1951, to parents Eileen and Wesley Gaylon. The boys were healthy at birth weighing 11 pounds (4.9 kg) and 11.5 pounds (5.2 kg) respectively.
However, the twins spent their first two years of life at the hospital as doctors were working hard to figure out a way to separate them. But when their parents heard that the surgery wouldn’t guarantee the survival of the twins, they refused to go ahead, according to MLive.
The Gaylon brothers were joined at the waist and had separate hearts and stomachs; each of them had a pair of legs and arms too. However, they shared one set of lower digestive organs and rectum.
At the mere age of 4, Ronnie and Donnie toured with their father across the country and appeared in carnivals and circuses as a sideshow attraction. Their youngest brother, Jim, who shared a special bond with them, said that their income supported the family of nine children for years. Visitors would pay to get a glimpse of the brothers in the RV that bore the sign “Alive in person—Galyon Siamese twins.”
However, growing up, life wasn’t all that easy for the brothers, as they weren’t allowed to attend school. Officials thought that the boys would be a distraction for other students.
As they performed at carnivals, the Gaylon twins found a community among the workers who ran food booths. Through their lifetime, they befriended Johan the Viking giant, Little Pete, who was billed the smallest man in the world, and Margaret Pellegrini, an actress who performed as a munchkin in “The Wizard of Oz.”
“When we were on the road, it was all like one big family,” Ronnie told MLive in an interview in 2014. By the early 1970s, the United States banned sideshow tricks, and thus, the twins then started to perform magic tricks as circus headliners across central and south America.
“They were treated totally different down there,” Jim said. “They were treated like rock stars.”
The brothers retired from entertaining in 1991 and lived alone until 2010 when health problems prompted them to move in with family members. The Dayton community raised funds and helped renovate their new home to allow the brothers to navigate in a custom wheelchair, the Dayton Daily News reported.
TLC even aired a documentary about the men in 2010.
The brothers, who were best friends, pretty much shared their tasks. Donnie did most of the cooking, dishes, and laundry, whilst Ronnie used to clean the bathroom. Reflecting on their lives, the brothers didn’t have any regrets. Donnie told MLive, “We’ve had a nice life,” whilst Ronnie said, “We had fun when we were growing up.”
In 2014, Ronnie and Donnie earned the distinction of being the world’s oldest set of conjoined twins shortly before their 63rd birthday. They surpassed the previous world record set by conjoined twins Chang and Eng Bunker, who were born in 1811 in Thailand and settled in North Carolina later.
According to WHIO, Jim said that the twins always spoke of reaching their landmark.
The two, who were special to their community, died in hospice care in Dayton, according to their brother. The Montgomery County coroner said their deaths were due to natural causes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.