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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 22, 2008

Twin sisters, Obama on parallel paths for years

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Susan "Nunu" Bell, left, and Gretchen "Nini" Worthington were born at the same Honolulu hospital where Barack Obama was born hours earlier. The twin girls also graduated from Punahou with Obama.

Photos by GREGORY YAMAMOTO | Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Eleanor Nordyke sits in her living room in Manoa with her twin daughters' scrapbook. They were born within hours of President-elect Barack Obama; the twins also graduated from Punahou with Obama.

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Retracing the steps of history, Eleanor Nordyke now realizes that she was in labor with twin daughters while Barack Obama, now the president-elect, was being born at what is now Kapi-'olani Medical Center for Women & Children.

The twins, Susan "Nunu" Bell and Gretchen "Nini" Worthington, were not only born in the same hospital hours after the future president, but also ended up in the same classes with Obama at Noelani Elementary School and later at Punahou School from the seventh grade to graduation in 1979.

"I think it was remarkable that they just so happened to be born within 24 hours of each other and grew up knowing each other," Nordyke said.

She did not know Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, while they were in labor together on Aug. 4, 1961, at the old Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital.

But Nordyke was a population research fellow at the East-West Center while Dunham was there. And Nordyke later met Madelyn Dunham Ann Dunham's mother and Obama's grandmother during a cruise to Tahiti in 2002.

"She was placed at our table on the ship," Nordyke said. "She sat with us on that ship for three weeks. She told us that her daughter had passed away and that she had raised her grandson, and he was a social worker in Chicago."

When Obama was making his successful presidential run, Nordyke realized that her daughters were born within hours of him at the same hospital.

The Hawai'i certificate of live birth that Obama displays on his Web site shows he was born at 7:24 p.m. on Aug. 4.

Nordyke was well into labor by then with girls who were three weeks premature. By 2 p.m. the following day, Susan was born at 5 pounds, 12 ounces, and Gretchen weighed in at 6 pounds, 4 ounces.

As toddlers, the girls called each other "Nunu" and "Nini" "and the other children picked it up, and we held onto it all this time," Nordyke said.

With the names Nordyke and Obama, the twins were often pictured near Obama in their class yearbooks, their mother said.

The daughters now live on the Mainland, and neither returned repeated telephone messages seeking comment.

But one or both may return to Honolulu in June when their class celebrates its 30th reunion, Nordyke said.

Reach Dan Nakaso at dnakaso@honoluluadvertiser.com.