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Happy anniversary Happy anniversary

July 29, 2004|by RYAN C. TUCK

ryant@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Mike Hebert and John Harkrader have been sharing things for decades. It started small with weekend bus fares, work shifts in the U.S. Marine Corps and clothes.

But Aug. 3 will mark the 40th year they have shared something a little more important.

Forty years ago, in a double ceremony, Hebert and Harkrader married twin sisters. Mike and Joan Hebert, and John and Jean Harkrader will celebrate the day in the Ravenswood Drive duplex they have shared for all but three years of their married lives.

"It's been a good life," the couples agreed.

And one unusual story.

Mike Hebert is Canadian and was one of 14 children in a blended family headed by his father and stepmother. The pressure of living at home, in a small town east of Montreal, inspired him to hop on his motorcycle one day in 1962, he said.

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He didn't stop driving until he had ventured into Burlington, Vt., and found himself staring at a billboard reading, "Be a man; Be a Marine." Hebert said he ended that year at Marine training camp in Parris Island, S.C., where he met John Harkrader.

After serving together for nearly a year, Hebert, "the Canadian with nothing to do on the weekends," asked Harkrader if he could go home to Hagerstown with him one weekend, the couples said.

Harkrader said "yes" and offered to set his buddy up with his girlfriend's twin sister.

Hebert said he thought his friend was kidding, so he was surprised to find himself in front of Harkrader's girlfriend, Jean Miller, and her identical twin, Joan Miller.

Joan "had something about her," Hebert said, and even exclaimed on their first date that he was going to marry her.

She replied, "no way," Hebert said.

Despite reservations about his clothes - which Hebert said he borrowed from Harkrader - and his hair, Joan Hebert said that after a year, "she kinda fell for him."

The couple reunited on weekends when Hebert and Harkrader hitchhiked back to Hagerstown.

In 1964, two years after John and Jean Harkrader began dating, John Harkrader proposed to her on her mother's front porch. The two attended high school together but did not begin dating until after John Harkrader came home from training camp and saw her on the swing in her front yard, Jean Harkrader said.

She pointed out that he went on a date with Joan Hebert first.

After hearing of her sister's engagement, Joan Hebert became jealous and popped the question to a surprised Mike Hebert.

"I was like, 'Yeah! Yeah! I've been planning to do that anyway,'" Mike Hebert said.

The pairs were married on a stormy Monday evening in a double ceremony and afterward moved into a house together.

After Jean Harkrader gave birth to a daughter in August 1967, and Joan Hebert had a son in October of that year, "the house began to feel small" and both couples began to search for a new place to live, they said.

Swearing that "it just happened that way," they said they were told that both sides of a duplex on Ravenswood Drive were available and moved in under the assumption that it would not be permanent.

What started as temporary became permanent, they said, and after "the twins" each had a son, the families decided to stay.

"Now you know you have at least one good neighbor," Mike Hebert said. "It's amazing what having a friend for a neighbor can be like."

Their children were "like brothers and sisters," Jean Harkrader said, and the couples spent a lot of time driving to and from swim meets in which their children competed. The twins devoted nearly an equal amount of time to shopping, Mike Hebert said.

After leaving the Marine Corps in 1966, Mike Hebert went to work at Mack Trucks Inc. and John Harkrader at M.S. Johnson, where they remain employed.

The Heberts have three grandsons and their youngest son, Shane, and his wife are expecting twins.

The Harkraders have two granddaughters and two grandsons.

Sitting in the Heberts' living room, the couples looked over the wedding picture they kept from The Herald-Mail and tried to figure out how they made it though 40 years.

"Marriage is about negotiation and acceptance," Mike Hebert said. "You may not like it, but you have to accept it. It has to be 50-50."

Joan Hebert and Jean Harkrader agreed that men and women don't think alike.

"You have to give," Joan Hebert said.

Mike Hebert, who said he has been sentimental since having quadruple-bypass surgery in April, said he's thankful for the last 40 years.

"I feel lucky to have met John because then I would never have met this girl," he said. "I mean, it's been some run."

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