Identical Twin Friars Die on Same Day; Spent 35 Years at St. Bonaventure

June 3, 2011 Updated Jun 3, 2011 at 12:53 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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Identical Twin Friars Die on Same Day; Spent 35 Years at St. Bonaventure

June 3, 2011 Updated Jun 3, 2011 at 12:53 PM EDT

St. Bonaventure, N.Y. (WKBW release) -- They left this world the same way they entered it -- on the same day.

Brothers in blood and in the Order of Friars Minor, Julian and Adrian Riester, identical twins who spent 35 years working at the St. Bonaventure Friary, died just hours apart on Wednesday at St. Anthony Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Professed Franciscan friars for 65 years, Julian died in the morning, and Adrian in the evening. They were 92 years old.

Born in Buffalo as Jerome (Julian) and Irving (Adrian) just seconds apart on March 27, 1919 -- they never would say who came first -- the Riester twins entered a family that already had five girls.

“Dad was a doctor, and he said a prayer for a boy. The Lord fooled him and sent two,” Br. Adrian once joked.

They attended Nardin Academy, Mt. St. Joseph Academy and St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute and then attempted to serve their country. When the Armed Forces turned them away because of their eyesight (one had a bad left eye, the other a bad right eye), they traveled across the Western states and into Canada to visit different missions and decided to join the Franciscan friars.

The Santa Barbara Province recommended they apply in the East and they eventually joined the friars of Holy Name Province in New York City.

They were sent on separate assignments before heading to the seminary at St. Bonaventure from 1951 to 1956. Assigned to parishes in Buffalo for the next 17 years, the brothers returned to St. Bonaventure in 1973 and lived quiet, behind-the-scenes lives as carpenters, gardeners and chauffeurs for anyone who might need a ride to campus.

Once they stopped driving, they could often be seen in the community walking or riding their bikes -- always together.

"Everyone I spoke to today was, of course, saddened to hear the news. They were dear, sweet men, the embodiment of everything good about the Franciscans," said Tom Missel, director of media relations and marketing at the university. "But everyone was also just amazed when they learned they died on the same day. It really is almost a poetic ending to the remarkable story of their lives. Stunning when you hear it, but hardly surprising given that they did almost everything together."

Funeral services for the brothers will be in St. Petersburg, Fla., where they had moved to the province's St. Anthony Friary in 2008.

A wake is scheduled for 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 5, at St. Anthony Friary, 357 Second Street North. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on Monday, June 6, at St. Mary Our Lady of Grace Church, 515 Fourth Street South. Burial will follow at Calvary Cemetery in Clearwater, Fla.