Oamaru will always be home for John and Bill Curwood.
The “beautiful” seaside town holds wonderful memories for the identical twins, who celebrated their 85th birthday last week.
“We love Oamaru and love coming back,” Bill said.
Bill now lives in Lexington, Kentucky, with his wife Linda, while John lives in Wellington with his wife Edith.
But last week they reunited in Oamaru, which had changed “tremendously” since they were teenagers, to celebrate their birthday together and catch up with family.
“Twins don’t usually live as long as single birth, so to be 85 is not too shabby at all,” Bill said.
Growing up, the Curwood brothers worked as paper boys for the Oamaru Mail
“We bought our own bicycles at Martyn’s cycle shop .. and paid them off at five shillings a week,” Bill said.
“We had an Oamaru Mail run for six and threepence a week, so we paid off our bicycles and had a few pennies to spare.”
They both left Waitaki Boys’ High School at the end of their fourth-form year, but overcame their “school dropout” status and went on to have successful careers.
John got a job at the Bruce Christie farm supply company before going on to study to become a schoolteacher at Canterbury University. He later became a school principal.
He met his wife Edith, nee Perry, while teaching and they had three children – Kent, Ferrida and Andrea Holmes.
John and Edith had distinguished careers in teaching, and as church lay leaders, before retiring in Wellington to be closer to their children.
John’s last job was as headmaster of Balaclava School in Dunedin. A gymnasium at the school is named in his honour.
After working for J. Rattray and Son as an accountant for 10 years, Bill felt a calling to the Christian ministry.
He studied at the Church of Christ Bible College and Otago University, then served Churches of Christ congregations in Nelson and Christchurch.
The first wedding Bill officiated was for John and Edith, at the Oamaru Columba Presbyterian Church.
“John and I were very active in church work here,” Bill said.
Ministers’ first weddings were not new to the Curwood family – the twins’ parents, Alfred and Anna Curwood, were the first couple to be married by Sir Garfield Todd at Oamaru Church of Christ.
Sir Garfield later became a missionary in what was then Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and then served as prime minister of the protectorate from 1953 to 1958.
Bill moved to America to take up a Haddon scholarship fellow at Lexington Theological Seminary (LTS).
“I received a scholarship to study mainly in pastoral care, counselling [and] chaplaincy work, specialising in those fields,” Bill said.
He got a doctorate degree from LTS, where he met his wife Linda, nee Case, and moved permanently to the United States.
Bill and Linda served together in three US congregations.
They had one daughter, Anna Wills, who, like her parents, became an ordained Christian minister.
Before retiring in 2000, Bill was named the outstanding citizen of Sedalia Missouri for his ecumenical leadership and community service with Habitat for Humanity, Child Safe and other organisations that helped the wider community.
“It was a very wonderful for me to have it,” he said.
Even though they live on opposite sides of the world, John and Bill have remained close and regularly talk on the phone.