4 Minersville sisters stay together for life


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POTTSVILLE, Pa. -- The four Foran sisters have been through thick and thin, living together in their Minersville home up until a few weeks ago. Now, thanks to a nursing home in nearby Pottsville, they share a room at the facility.

Rita, Helen, Dolores and Marie Foran have a loving bond that many people can only wish for. Dolores, who goes by "Dodo," and Marie, whose nickname is "Me-Me," are 89-year-old twins. Rita is the oldest at 93, followed by Helen at 91.

The four sisters are charmers, which is easily evident by looking at the faces of staffers at Golden Living Center-York Terrace who assist them or who just pass by the room and smile.

Admissions director Alicia L. Karabinas has definitely been charmed. She was instrumental in making the arrangements to get the Foran sisters in the same room when she learned the story of them being together all of their lives.

"Their mother was only 35 when she died, and their father took care of them until he died during a flood in Minersville," Ms. Karabinas said. "Rita, who was about 13, was left to raise all of them, which included her three sisters and two brothers."

Ms. Karabinas said one brother, Joseph Foran, lives in Minersville, Schuylkill County, and comes to York Terrace by bus to visit with his sisters. Their other brother, William Foran, has passed away.

As the sisters were getting their photo taken, an audience of staff began to gather in the room and fuss over them or just watch.

"They are so cute," Ms. Karabinas said with a big smile.

"You look fabulous," said one staff person during the photo shoot, with Helen replying, "Thank you. You make us look that way."

The sisterly entourage was moved to the cafeteria for additional photos, and the four women and Ms. Karabinas sat around a table for their interview.

"She raised us all like a mother," Helen said of Rita, who quit school to take care of the family when their mother, Nellie Brennan Foran, died.

"Mom told me to keep us all together and don't let them separate us," Rita said, who received the advice when her mother was dying and was concerned the sisters and brothers would be separated through adoption to other families.

"And she did. She kept us all together and took care of us," Helen said. "She gave up her life for us. Rita was a good cook and housekeeper."

"I quit school to stay home with the children," Rita said.

"We all worked together," Marie said.

"What she said, went," Helen said.

When Rita was asked if her sisters listened to her and followed her instructions and directions, the other three answered with "Yeah" and "Oh yes" several times.

Their father, Joseph P. Foran, died in 1938 while he was picking coal and a hole opened above a mine tunnel, caused by flooding in the area, and he was overtaken by "black damp," an air mixture of carbon dioxide and nitrogen. Foran was killed, as was another man trying to rescue him.

While Rita stayed home, the other sisters found local jobs, mainly in dress factories. The brothers married and left home, but the sisters remained single.

"We all lived in the house where we grew up," Dolores said.

"We all went out to work in 10th grade," Marie said of Dolores and herself. "We were going to go back, but we didn't because we needed jobs to live."

"I was the only that stayed and graduated high school," Helen said.

Ms. Karabinas said Helen was the first to come to York Terrace about three years ago.

"When I had heard that the others were going to the hospital back to back, and since they all depended on each other, that's when I started moving to accommodate them in that one room," Ms. Karabinas said. "Marie was first, then Dolores and finally Rita. We thought that would be good for them. Every time when I would go to the hospital to see them, each one was always so concerned about the other two since they were in different sections of the hospital."

For fun, the sisters went roller skating.

"We loved roller skating and go to City Park on the road to Pottsville," Dolores said. "That was our hobby. We used to 'climb the walls.' You keep going and you go up the walls and come down."

"Those were the good old days," Marie said.

"We had some tough breaks, but we're here. We got through it all," Helen said.

Ms. Karabinas said the sisters are enjoying meeting the other residents at York Terrace.

"It's been great to have them here," Ms. Karabinas said. "Their stories are amazing. They're all so pleasant and happy all the time."

"When you stick together and you work together, it all comes out OK," Helen said.

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