Walking powers 48-year friendship

By Lisa Williams Ackley

Staff Writer

HEADING OUT FOR THEIR DAILY WALK TOGETHER — are Sharon Russo Presby (at left) and Julie LeDoux Harmon, friends since their early childhood days in Westbrook. (Ackley Photo)

Imagine being best friends with someone for nearly half a century.

Well, Julie Ledoux Harmon and Sharon Russo Presby don’t have to imagine it — they have been like sisters, since they were four and five years old and living in Westbrook with their respective families.

Now, 53-year-old Julie and her family live in downtown Bridgton and 52-year-old Sharon and her family live in Bolster’s Mills in Harrison — yet, they still see each other nearly every day!

Julie and Sharon, who all their lives have been mistaken for sisters — walk three to four miles around Bridgton, almost every night — weather permitting.

They walk and talk constantly — about their childhood, their families and current events, with one of them often finishing the other one’s sentence.

How did their 48-year-long friendship begin?

“I have known Sharon since 1963, when I was five and she was four,” said Julie.

“We lived in the same neighborhood — an eighth of a mile apart,” Sharon stated.

Julie is next to the youngest of four children, while Sharon is the second to the oldest of five children.

“I met Sharon’s sister, Cynthia — we started school the same year,” Julie explained. “I would go to their house to play. I found I really had more in common with Sharon. We just really clicked.”

“I don’t remember a time not knowing Julie — it’s so far back,” said Sharon.

“When we were growing up in Westbrook, we both went to parochial school and then public school,” Julie stated. “From the time we were about seven and eight, people thought we were twins! People couldn’t tell us apart! We’d even swap clothes! They’d think I was a Russo and she was a Ledoux!”

ARE THEY TWINS? — Sharon Russo Presby, (at left) and Julie LeDoux Harmon looked so much alike as teenagers, most people could not tell them apart, especially when they dressed in similar clothing, like these plaid winter coats! People still mistake them for sisters, they said. (Submitted photo)

Said Sharon, “We’d buy and wear the same bathing suits and hats.”

“And coats,” added Julie. “We’d always buy the same clothes. We did everything together — we were inseparable.”

Explaining how they shared their growing up years together, Sharon said, “You have a person you play make believe with — then you go to the next stage — skating, sledding, swimming — through different stages of your childhood together. We were always there together — like having someone you were always with. I swear to God, 365 days a year we saw each other — we saw each other every day! We hung out, morning, noon and night!”

“And, we always had each other’s backs,” said Sharon.

“Yes, we always had each other’s backs,” Julie said. “We almost knew what the other one was going to say, before they said it!”

“I feel the same way,” added Sharon.

They walked everywhere together, during their childhood years in Westbrook.

“Even as kids, we’d walk and walk,” Sharon said.

“And we’ve walked about every square inch of Westbrook,” said Julie. “We walked to Congress Street, three or four times. We’d never run out of things to talk about — we still don’t!”

“We think the same things about different subjects,” Sharon said. “We don’t just agree, for the sake of agreeing — we think the same.”

“And, we’ve never had an argument — about anything,” added Julie.

As they grew older, they might each hang out with different people, “But we’d always come back together,” Julie stated.

“It’s sort of like a kinship,” Sharon stated. “A guy named Eddie that we knew in Westbrook used to see us and say, ‘I saw you walking with your sister.’ We’d say, ‘She’s not my sister.’ But then you go along with it!”

Sharon moved to Bolster’s Mills 10 years ago, and since then, even those in the Lake Region think they are sisters!

“People in Bridgton even think we’re twins,” said Julie.

Walk and talk…and talk and walk

Sharon and Julie first began walking together, when they were eight and nine years old.

“As soon as we could leave the door yard,” said Sharon.

They admitted to, at times, being mischievous, as teenagers.

“We were probably 15 and 16 — it was in the summertime and really hot — and Sharon asked her mother if I could sleep over,” said Julie. “We slept on lawn chairs on the porch. Around one o’clock in the morning one of us said to the other one, ‘Let’s go for a walk,’ and the other one said, ‘Okay.’ So, we were out walking the streets of Westbrook, from 1 to 4 a.m. We got in our lawn chairs around 4 a.m. Then, Sharon’s mother came out at 6 a.m., and said, ‘Sharon, get in the house! Julie, go home — I’ve already called your mother!’ I got grounded for two weeks!”

“We were mischievous,” said Sharon.

“But, we didn’t really do anything bad,” added Julie with a giggle.

Now that they have matured, Sharon’s and Julie’s walks together are a little less exciting, they said.

“We basically get out and walk five nights a week, and on Sundays, usually, if we’re free,” Julie explained. “We’ve just got it in our blood for walking all the time.”

“We walk three or four miles, each day,” said Sharon.

“In warmer weather, we go longer,” Julie said. “Our cutoff is 10 below (zero) with wind!”

“And, we’ve been trapped in a couple of thunderstorms, too,” Julie added.

During the 1970s, Sharon and her husband moved all over the country, as he was in the military — but she and Julie always stayed in touch with one another.

“We used to write to each other,” said Sharon. “Then, I moved back to Westbrook, in 1984.”

“We would see each other, from time to time,” Julie said. “If I’d get to Westbrook to visit, we’d hook up and go for a walk.”

“There hasn’t been a period of time where we haven’t been connected, in some way,” stated Sharon.

“We’ve been giving each other Christmas presents since we were nine and 10 years old,” said Julie.

Sharon moved to Bolster’s Mills, in 2002, and the two best friends began walking on a regular basis again, three years ago.

“Before that, I worked in Portland and it was harder to see each other because of the long commute,” Sharon explained.

“Julie won’t walk with me, even if Sharon doesn’t show up,” said Julie’s husband, Mark Harmon with a laugh.

“We never run out of things to talk about, “said Julie.

Asked what they do talk about, Julie replied, “A little bit of everything — the old days.”

“The kids — our problems,” said Sharon.

“The world’s problems,” added Julie.

Julie and Sharon take different routes, during their long walks together.

“Sometimes, we go down South High Street to Willett Road, then up through town — all the way up Main Hill and down South High Street to Church Street and then back to Cottage Street,” said Julie. “At other times, we go to the end of Dugway Road and back. In the wintertime, at night, we walk to the hospital, turn around and walk back down South High Street, down Main Hill to the traffic lights at the other end of town. Then we go around by the police station, back up Main Street to the monument on Main Hill then down South High Street to Church Street to Cottage Street. Our goal is to walk up Dugway Road to Middle Ridge Road around to the golf course and back to town.”

“An easy five miles,” said Sharon.

“We have done it once — two years ago,” said Julie. “We made the mistake of going up the steep hill on Highland Road!”

So, how long do they think they will continue their daily walks together?

“Until I’m either on a walker or in a nursing home and just can’t go,” said Julie. “We plan to keep going, as long as we can keep going! As long as my legs keep moving, I’ll keep going! ”

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