Archive for Saturday, September 10, 1994

DEATH

September 10, 1994

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A Manhattan woman whose identical twin sister was killed in an accident near Lawrence talked last week about her loss.

Salli wasn't there.

She'd always been with Shari Head, even when the two were area codes apart. As children, the two would have the same dreams. Years later, Shari would pick up the phone to call Salli, and Salli would pick up the call before the phone rang.

And now, on Feb. 10, Shari's identical twin sister was gone.

"I kept saying after Salli died, 'I can't find her. I can't reach her,' " Shari said.

Salli Hoag died on a Thursday, seven months ago today, after an auto accident 13 miles east of the East Lawrence Interchange on the Kansas Turnpike. She was 56, 20 minutes younger than Shari.

Shari had planned to travel that day from her home in Manhattan, where she works as a housemother at a Kansas State University fraternity, to a Junction City hospital to visit her mother.

But during the morning, she began suffering an extreme headache, and she abandoned her plan to go out of town. Soon afterward, the headache mushroomed into nausea, and Shari lay down.

At 2 p.m., a family member called and told her that Salli had died. During an interview this week at a downtown Lawrence restaurant, Shari said she couldn't describe the emotional pain she suffered after hearing the news.

"I remember saying to the boys (in the fraternity), 'She's all I have,' " she said, her eyes filling with tears.

The Kansas Turnpike Authority said Salli was riding in a 1987 Lincoln sedan driven by her husband, Charles Hoag, 62, when the car veered off the turnpike and overturned. The family thinks Charles Hoag, who had been seeing a physician about persistent headaches, may have blacked out momentarily at the wheel.

Hoag, a standout football, basketball and track athlete at Kansas University in the 1950s, was severely injured and spent several weeks at the KU Medical Center, Kansas City, Kan., before being released.

Shari said one of the only blessings about the accident was that Hoag, whom she described as a "wonderful, wonderful man," survived.

But losing her closest sister and her dearest friend caused months' worth of pain.

"From 5 o'clock on, she'd have a real hard time, because that's the time they'd call each other," said Shari's husband, Roy Head. "She'd say, 'I'm not going to make it. I'm not going to make it.' "

Shari and Salli grew up in Junction City after being adopted when they were a week old. In some ways, they were different.

Salli was a little taller, a little thinner and a lot more outgoing than her older sister, Shari said. Of the two, Salli was the one who grew up to be a high school cheerleader, to marry a noted athlete and to co-own a business in Topeka.

"They had their complete differences," Roy Head said. "Shari would be angry at Salli, but I knew better than to open my mouth and agree with her. Because then Shari would defend her."

The sisters shared a primordial bond that never went away. Their voices and mannerisms remained identical decades after they moved away from each other, Shari said. There were identical dreams, simultaneous phone calls, the sisters showing up at special events in similar outfits they'd picked independently of each other.

"They could always talk in riddles to each other that nobody else could understand," Roy Head said. "One could start to say something, and the other one would take off on it without having to wait for her to finish. Then the other would do the same."

Shari said those conversations were the thing she missed the most since her sister died.

"She had a wonderful sense of humor," Shari said. "I'd hear something and I'd think, 'I'll have to remember to tell her.' I've had to learn to live without that."

For Shari, adapting to aloneness has come partly through a national support group for identical twins whose siblings have died, and through a pair of experiences Shari can't fully explain.

In one, she said, she awoke wearing a medallion that Salli had given to her. She said she hadn't been wearing it when she went to bed.

Another time, she found pictures of Salli and her mother lying out. She was sure she had put them away.

"Roy thinks I'm strange, but these two things -- these things that would have been so totally out of character -- made me feel like she was with me," Shari said.

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