Inseparable Barrington sisters – Jean Haley and Martha Williams met their tragic end together on the same day in freezing temperatures after falling outside one of their homes.
Police say the 97-year-old twin sisters, apparently froze to death over the weekend after they fell outside Haley’s house in Barrington and were stranded overnight. A neighbor found them Saturday morning.
Overnight temperatures in the area dropped to as low as 11 degrees, with wind chills as low as minus 8, at a time when much of New England saw some if its coldest winter temperatures.
The Barrington sisters were inseparable through marriages, the bearing of their own children, into widowhood and even to death.
On their last day together, Jean Haley and Martha Williams dined together with their little sister, who is 89 years old and then they headed to Haley’s house in Barrington, according to police reports.
The younger sister, who lives elsewhere in Barrington and wasn’t named by police, left the two sisters at some point before the falls, police said.
Barrington Police said Jean Haley, of Barrington, was trying to call for help and fell after noticing her sister, Martha Williams, of East Providence, had fallen also,
They said Williams was going to her car to leave Haley’s home when she fell in the driveway, near the rear of her vehicle. When Haley attempted to re-enter her home to call for help, police said she may have tripped on a rug in the garage and fallen.
A neighbor found the Barrington sisters the next morning. They were rushed to Rhode Island Hospital in Providence in critical condition, but died a short time later.
The family asked the hospital staff to keep the women’s bodies near each other. Police Chief John LaCross described their deaths as a “tragic loss.”
Haley’s neighbor, Peter May said; “They spent almost 10 decades together. They were born on the same day and they died on the same day. It’s a beautiful story of sisterhood.”
Williams’s 67-year-old daughter, Sue, said the twins, whom she calls ‘the girls,” lived with grace and integrity, and a warm openness about how much they loved the people in their lives.
Speaking of her family, Sue Williams said, “They made it so none of us feel we left something unsaid. And that is unbelievable, because we all leave things — ‘I wish I had said this, I wish I could do one more hug. I wish. I wish. I wish.’
“I know they expressed their love to everybody who came across them. I’ve had boyfriends from 50 years ago call me in tears, barely able to talk because they loved my mom so much.”
Martha lived in East Providence with her daughter Sue. She was wholly devoted to her family.
Sue Williams said the twins were still driving, and still going to their favorite restaurants at 97. Martha loved to sew, even at her age.
“She became what I called my scullery maid. She got a big kick out of that. I would cook for her and she would do the dishes. And she loved having that. It was something she could do for me.
“The girls were shrinking more and more over the years and she was constantly taking up her hems because her pants and skirts were too long,” Sue said.
Remembering an enduring bond among the twins and their younger sister, Haley’s three sons said the twins rarely went longer than a day without seeing one another, and their families were so close that the twins’ children grew up just across the Barrington River from one another, shuttling back and forth on a small motor boat.
One of Jean’s sons, Dwight Haley said; “The easy-going, dark-haired Jean and the sensitive, light-haired Martha were always there in mutual support, thats why they lasted so long, because they had each other.”
When the Barrington sisters were together, they were a force, often sitting at the bars of their favorite restaurants, drinking water and chatting up strangers.
Born in November 1919, on the kitchen table at home in Rhode Island, to a mother who didn’t know she was having twins, Jean and Martha grew up in Providence in the Jazz Age with adventurous parents.
Their father ran a manufacturing company in Pawtucket — Douglas Young Inc. — that made boxes for the jewelry industry. Their mother, Louise, was a pianist and organist. The twin girls were the couple’s first children; a third daughter was born about 1928, according to US Census records and a family history.
The family traveled extensively. A ship’s manifest that turned up in an online records search shows the entire family sailed to New York from Bermuda over two days in April 1938, when the twins were 18.
Martha married Charles Roger Williams Jr., a former Eagle Scout who served in World War II in Europe. Jean married John Williams Haley Jr., who served in the Battle of the Bulge. Both of the husbands, now deceased, worked many years at Douglas Young Inc.