Twins born in different years, Lynn and Gynn have enjoyed life of laughing together

Published 12:10 am Saturday, January 8, 2022

SALISBURY — Lynn Eller Masingo has always had bragging rights over her fraternal twin, Gynn, for being born first. Not only by a few minutes, but by a year.

And that’s only stretching the truth a little.

Lynn was born at Statesville’s Davis Hospital at 11:57 p.m. on Dec. 31, 1954, but Gynn (pronounced “Gwen”) didn’t make his debut until 12 minutes later in 1955.

“We were womb mates for nine months and I finally escaped at three minutes until midnight, but he chased me out,” Gynn said. “I had 12 minutes of peace before he got here too.”

Gynn, the youngest in the family, has his own spin on the situation.

“My mother said she was going to keep having children until she got one that was normal,” Gynn said. “I’m the last of seven.”

They might not share the same birthday, but the twins have an identical sense of humor. Lynn’s husband calls it a “twisted sense of humor.” They must’ve inherited it from their mother, Hilda Wood Eller, who told people she’d stopped having kids when they started coming two at a time.

At the time they were born, Lynn and Gynn’s five siblings ranged in age from 4 to 18. Their oldest sister, who was like a second mother to them, actually gave them their paired names.

The odds of Lynn and Gynn’s unusual birth are roughly one in two million or one in one million, depending which source you check. Either way, it’s rare. Siblings in California recently made headlines across the globe for being born a year apart as 2021 became 2022. Lynn and Gynn made their own media splash when they came into the world in 1954 and 1955.

Thanks to the delivery doctor having a son in school in New York, news of their birth spread to the Big Apple and was printed in the New York Times. Their father, Russell Eller, kept the resulting newspaper clipping in his wallet until the day he died.

Like most twins, Lynn and Gynn spent plenty of time together as toddlers. They were kept apart at Hurley Elementary school, except when Lynn was relied on to help calm her brother down. A “momma’s boy,” Gynn was distraught when he started first grade and had to leave Hilda’s side.

“I cried everyday for six months at school,” Gynn said. “Ms. White was my teacher and she used to pray in the lunchroom before we go to lunch that I would quit crying.”

With no other option, White would seek help from Lynn, also a “momma’s girl” but less attached.

“They used to bring him across the hall to my classroom for me to comfort him,” Lynn said. 

That’s been the case since, she jokes. 

The only class Lynn and Gynn shared through their schooling was ninth grade algebra. The two did share a job as teenagers. Both worked at the first Food Town store — now known as Food Lion — on Mahaley Avenue. Lynn was behind the cash register and Gynn a bagger, before he moved on to the produce department.

Gynn worked his way up in the Food Lion hierarchy and eventually made the jump to Atlas Marketing Company, a Charlotte-based brokerage firm that represented hundreds of food companies and sold to grocery stores throughout the Southeast. After taking over as chief executive of Atlas at just 35 years old, Gynn helped the company become a multi-billion dollar enterprise.

“It was a great business to be in then, and it took me all over the world,” Gynn said.

On customer entertainment ventures, Gynn hunted wild game on multiple continents. His first hunting adventure was for bears in British Columbia.

“The first animal I ever hunted was a bear,” Gynn said. “So, it was a pretty good incentive to become a good shot.”

Gynn bagged each of the “big five” animals in Africa — a leopard, lion, rhinoceros, buffalo and elephant. The meat of each of the animals, he said, was eaten by locals. On the remote Cobourg Peninsula in northern Australia, Gynn shot a Banteng. Hunters were only allowed to kill 10 of the wild cattle per year at the time.

“As a kid growing up in Salisbury, I never had the idea that I’d have as many opportunities as I had,” Gynn said.

While starting a family of her own, Lynn worked at Atlas Marketing Company for some time.

“She was one of the best employees we had,” Gynn said.

After a few successful years at Atlas, Lynn went on to carve her own career path at General Mills.

Although their professional lives have taken them on trips both domestic and international, Lynn and Gynn have always stayed close to home. Gynn now resides in Cornelius and Lynn in Salisbury. Lynn will soon celebrate her 50th anniversary with her husband, who was her high school sweetheart.

They usually don’t celebrate their respective birthdays together anymore like they did when they were children, except on rare occasions. When they turned 60, Lynn and Gynn’s children threw them a joint bash with lots of family.

The twins still talk almost daily and get together in person when they can, like at North Myrtle Beach where they share a house. Lynn is still quick to tease Gynn about the fact that she’s older, even if it doesn’t carry the same weight it once did.

“It used to be fun to be the oldest one, but as we’ve matured it’s not as fun as when we were little,” Lynn said.

Gynn, meanwhile, has found a way to leverage the fun fact for his own benefit.

“You can win some bar bets by saying I have a twin sister who is a year older,” Gynn said. “They’ll say, ‘How is that? Irish twins?’ Then you have to explain it to them and still sometimes they don’t get it.”

While the two have enjoyed all the comedy that comes with their birthdays, they’ve also appreciated having a close relationship even more.

“She has a goodness about her that’s unequaled,” Gynn said. “She really is one of my all-time favorite people.”

Lynn feels the same way about her younger brother.