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Twin brothers Cleon and Leon Boyd followed each other seemingly everywhere, from their births 64 years ago at the old Putnam Memorial Hospital in Bennington to their frequent arrivals at Deerfield Valley coffee counters such as Dot’s in Wilmington.
“I never regretted seeing them walk in the door,” recalls Laura Sibilia, a former waitress turned state representative for several towns on the Bennington-Windham County border. “Just fun-loving guys who always came in with a good attitude and kept you laughing.”
Perhaps that’s why family and friends can’t believe — yet can believe — the two died just six days apart this month from complications of coronavirus.
“They were born together, they did everything together, and they died together,” says Leon’s high school sweetheart and wife of 40 years, Pam.
Cleon was born several minutes earlier than Leon on March 13, 1956.
“Cleon always made sure he told Leon,” Pam says. “They’d fight together, then they’d be hugging each other.”
The twins grew up on their family’s Wilmington farm with brother Bucky and sisters Theresa, Carol and Tammy. Both attended local elementary and high schools, then worked as equipment operators for several excavating and construction companies. Following in the tracks of their late father, they also groomed area ski trails.
“The best is when you get a good storm with a little bit of sticky snow and it’s packing good,” Cleon said of such deep-of-night work in a Mount Snow promotional video. “The moon’s starting to set, you get to the summit and look down to the valley and see the sun come up and say, ‘Wow, look at all the people who are missing this.’”
When he wasn’t working, Cleon would ride his Honda Gold Wing motorcycle to the family deer camp or sugarhouse. Leon, for his part, liked hunting, fishing and snowmobiling. Together, they sang tunes like the folk classic “Good Old Mountain Dew,” the comical “The Battle of New Orleans” and the Ray Charles and Willie Nelson duet “Seven Spanish Angels” at weddings and other public socials.
“Everybody asks me, ‘When are you going to retire?’” Cleon said in the Mount Snow video. “Nah, you’ll find me dead in the snowcat or I’ll be up on the mountain mowing, one way or the other.”
Instead, Cleon, Leon and seven other family members learned just before winter turned to spring they were among the first Vermonters to show symptoms of Covid-19.
“We all contracted it at the sugarhouse,” Pam believes. “We’re very close.”
“In my mind, Dad could have gotten it anywhere,” says Cleon’s daughter, Meghan. “I kept telling him, ‘Wash your hands,’ but he’s an old stubborn Vermonter.”
As everyone else recovered, Cleon died at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington on April 3. Leon followed 6 days later at Cheshire Medical Center in Keene, N.H., on April 9.
The twins are survived by their mother, other brother and three sisters. Cleon’s obituary names two sons, two daughters, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Leon’s obituary notes his wife and their son and daughter. They also leave countless friends and neighbors who, because physical distancing precludes a service at this time, are mourning on social media.
“You both were the kindest, most genuine, loving men I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing,” one Facebook user posted. “They were both always full of positivity and laughs. Good advice and smiles. Warmth and love. We are all going to miss you both so much.”
Leon Boyd, left, and Cleon Boyd.
Family and friends lowered flags to half-staff the past two weekends before climbing into cars, fire and highway trucks, police cruisers, motorcycles and tractors to drive through the region in a pair of processions. Cleon’s, which came on Palm Sunday, included his snow groomer. Leon’s, which followed on Easter, featured the roadside mower he drove for the town.
“I have never seen so many cars,” says Sibilia, who joined in. “There are some people who make a quiet yet big mark. For me, they were very similar in temperament and love of family, singing and Vermont. They touched and brightened so many lives.”
Beginning and ending with each other’s.
“They were two inseparable boys,” Pam says. “They are up in heaven singing with the angels. They had to go on this journey together.”
VTDigger is collecting stories about the lives of Vermonters who have died from Covid-19. If you’ve lost a loved one due to the coronavirus, we’d like to speak with you. To get in touch, email [email protected] and use the subject line “remembrance.”