After 90 years, a twin surprise party

Lawrence Pierce
Edwin (left, in cap) and Edward Brown gather with family members at their surprise 90th birthday party at the Fifth Quarter Steakhouse in Charleston on Saturday.
Lawrence Pierce
Edwin (left) and Edward are known as Big and Little Brownie. Saturday's 90th birthday party was the first time the two had ever had a party together.
Lawrence Pierce
Denise Brown embraces her Uncle Edwin at his surprise birthday party Saturday. Denise's father, Edward, is Edwin's identical twin brother.
Lawrence Pierce
Edward Brown greets guests as he arrives to his surprise 90th birthday party.
It only took 90 years for twin brothers Edwin and Edward Brown to have a joint birthday party. On Saturday at Fifth Quarter Steakhouse in Charleston their family threw a surprise 90th birthday party for them.The identical twins known as Big Brownie and Little Brownie, have lived through 16 presidents, served their country in the Navy and called Charleston home all their life.Edward's son, Johnny, hadn't seen his father in more than two years. He drove 600 miles with his wife Jackie for the party."It's fantastic to see everyone," Johnny said laughing with a smile on his face. "My uncle said, 'you look a lot like me' and everyone says I look like my dad. Sometimes I can't tell them apart."Edwin, known as Big Brownie said it's even gotten him into a bit of trouble."They tell on me and say that they've seen me with another woman," Edwin explained. "And it was (Edward) all the time with his wife!"They both agreed they've had some fun with being twins over the years. Once they even contemplated switching places for a test."I blame everything on him, so it has to be confusing," Edward said. "You could get by with a lot of things. We could do anything." At Watts Elementary School on Charleston's West Side, Edward blamed a fight with the crossing guard on his brother.The brothers used to walk about three miles to Lincoln Junior High School from Pine Street Hill where they grew up.The two received their nicknames early when they were born as premature babies, Edward's daughter Denise explained. The two were born at home."My grandparents made kind of like an incubator out of a dresser draw," Denise said. "They would put my uncle, Big Brownie in the top drawer and hot bricks in the second, and then my dad in the third draw and hot bricks in the fourth to keep them warm."Edward was in the 13th wave that stormed the beach at Normandy and the fifth wave during the invasion of southern France. Edward served more than 20 years in the Navy.
His fondest service memory is helping rescue a lieutenant who was shot in the back during a fierce battle during World War II.His crew lost their small boat during the rescue mission and had to dig a foxhole in the beach.
"We had 13 bullet holes in the boat," Edward said. "Thirteen was a lucky number then I guess. We were lucky to have got out of there alive."When they got back to the main boat, Edward said his captain had a shot of whiskey waiting.Edwin served more than two years on the USS Essex aircraft carrier ship. His service took him into 18 battles."Nobody believes you can be in that many battles aboard a ship, but you can," Edwin said.Edwin spent much of his service in the Pacific. He recalls traveling north toward Vietnam when his ship began to shake and the captain came over the loud speaker to tell the crew they were being fired on by the enemy."We bomb those islands till they didn't have anything left on them," Edwin said.
In 90 years, the two have witnessed a lot."Last night I went over all the things they have witnessed in their life," Denise said. "It's just crazy what they have experienced."Both twins, who still reside in the Charleston area, were extremely surprised by the party and everyone who attended. About 20 family members attended the dinner, with eight traveling from Alabama."It's unimaginable to get all these people together," Edwin said.Reach Caitlin Cook at or 304-348-5113.
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