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February 3, 2014

Twins Fred and Leo DeMary are closest of friends

RIVESVILLE — You can tell Fred and Leo DeMary are twin brothers.

They were born on March 20, 1923, and will soon be celebrating their 91st birthdays.

Time and tide have only brought the brothers closer together. Fred and Leo are the best of friends. Ask one of them to tell you a story, and the other will inevitably chime in, teasing and joking.

Born in Monongah, Fred and Leo moved to Rivesville with their mom, dad and two brothers in the 1930s. Their dad had been working in the mines in Monongah.

“Then they started laying people off, and he decided he’d go into the grocery store business,” Fred said.

His father hired some carpenters, and he and his four sons got to work building DeMary’s Market, now a Rivesville institution. The store has been around since 1938.

“I was 15 years old the first day,” Fred said.

After he’d been working a few years at the store, World War II broke out, and all four brothers joined the armed forces. Fred went to Europe, Johnny was in the Pacific and Joe was in Alaska. Soon after joining, Leo was sent home because of a knee injury.

“I got home, and Mother and Dad needed help with the store,” Leo said. He helped out while his brothers were serving.

“And after the war was over, we came back, and my dad and mother wanted to retire from the store,” Fred said. “So they said, ‘Well, you boys want to take over?’ And we said, ‘Yeah, we’ll take over!’”

They took over around 1945. They decided to add something to the business, and started delivering. Their customers were mainly coal miners and farmers back then.

“We delivered all over this part of the country,” Fred said. “We had a big delivery truck, and besides the groceries, we sold feed and anything a farmer could use.”

They delivered up to 40 miles away from the store.

Their mom, Nancy, decided the store could use a deli, so she started one. DeMary’s Market still has its deli, where they serve hot dogs, meatball hoagies and hot sausage hoagies.

The hot sausage is their specialty. Richard DeMary, Fred’s son, runs the store now, and he still makes them from the family recipe.

“Around Christmas time, it’s hard to keep up,” Fred said. “Everybody wants it for the holidays.”

Fred said his favorite part about running the store was getting to talk to all of the people who came in.

“There were a lot of interesting people. Older people I liked to talk to,” Fred said. “It was educational, you know, to talk to older people.”

Fred said that the people who come into the store are different now. Fewer coal miners and farmers, although plenty of local people stop by.

“And right now, we get a lot of out-of-town people come down because of the meat and all,” Fred said. “We have all kinds of meat. Pork chops, steak, chicken, ground chuck, spare ribs, ham. Just about anything in a meat line.”

Fred and Leo said that running the store was a solid choice for them and their two brothers.

“Four of us brothers made a living out of that store. Can you think about that? And raised a family!” Leo said.

Leo, John, Joe and Fred all married. Leo, John and Joe each had two kids, while Fred had five, three girls and two boys.

Leo and Fred love to tell stories about their younger years.

“Fred can tell you a little story about when we were dating girls,” Leo said, with a conspiratorial grin.

“He stole my girlfriend!” Fred said.

“Yeah, I did,” Leo said with a laugh.

When they were in high school, Fred had a row boat and his brother owned a car, a 1932 Ford Model B.

“So I had a date with this girl, and I said, ‘Now, I’m going to take you on the river tonight. There’s going to be a full moon, and we’re going to go out for a boat ride,’” Fred said. He didn’t have a way to transport the boat, so he had to oar down from the store to a bridge, and told her he would meet her there.

“But when I got down there, she wasn’t there!” Fred said. “He’d come by in his car, and picked her up!”

“Boy, he was ready to beat me,” Leo laughed. “She said, ‘I’m waiting on Fred.’ I said, ‘He’ll never get that boat down here. Come on; jump in the car. I’ll take you out and get you some ice cream.’”

“He was the only one who had a car,” Fred said.

“Yeah, I used to get all of the girls,” Leo said.

The brothers could be quite a handful for their mother at times.

“Mother ran the store, and raised four kids,” Leo said. “She had her hands full! She was a strong woman, though. She was a New Yorker.”

When their mom was pregnant with Fred and Leo, she didn’t know she was going to have twins.

“The doctor came to the house,” Fred said. “Leo was born first, and Dad was getting ready to leave, and the doctor said, ‘Now wait a minute! I think we’ve got another one here!’”

Fred laughed.

“That was me!” he said.

Nowadays, the brothers may not be working full time any longer, but they still keep busy.

“There’s always something to do, isn’t there, Fred?” Leo said. “Fred’s got the boat docks up here and keeps busy there. And there’s a lot to do around the house.”

“I help Richard out at the store, and work a few hours a day,” Fred said. “Keep busy, you know. Something to do.”

DeMary’s Market has been around for three generations, and celebrated its 75th year last year.

Fred and Leo will soon be celebrating their 91st year on March 30.

“We have a birthday coming up! We’re only going to be 91, Fred,” Leo said, laughing.

Email Colleen S. Good at cgood@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @CSGoodTWV.

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