A woman dying of brain cancer requested for her sister to marry her husband and take on her their three children as her own.
Jackie DeVita made the wish on her death bed to her Irish twin, Colleen Leary. Originally from Binghamton, New York, the two sisters were born within a year of each other and often mistaken for twins.
“Even though she had blue eyes and more auburn hair, and I have dark hair and dark eyes, people would mistake us for twins,” Colleen says.
Initially Leary refused her sister’s dying wish to marry her brother-in-law. However she did agree to look after her niece and nephews, like her own.
But three months after the funeral she gave into her sisters wishes and married millionaire widower Richard DeVita.
“I know we have her blessing,” Colleen DeVita (46), who now wears her sister’s wedding ring, told the Daily Mail.
“I do care what people think,” she added.
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Speaking about her departed sister she said she was “always a girl who knew what she wanted”.
“But it mattered more to me that I felt peace for my sister, knowing that this is what was supposed to happen if she couldn’t be here.”
When both the sisters ended up living in Florida they ended up working in Richard DeVita’s dental practice.
DeVita who was a devout Catholic, attended Stonehill College, a Catholic school in Easton, Massachusetts before studying dentistry at Emory University in Atlanta.
What began as a date to a Phil Collins concert in Tampa, ended with him falling for Jackie.
“At first, I thought she was beautiful,” he recalls. “She was attractive as hell. But it was her whole personality’ that made the difference.”
Soon after they married, had three children and settled in a 101-acre ranch and 19,114-square-foot house. Jackie was the creative force behind designing the family home.
“She had a vision; she knew what she wanted,” Richard said. “When we first came here, it was just gigantic, and who knows what to do? Upstairs was like six bedrooms in a row. So we went, phoom, and knocked everything down.”
Colleen agrees that her sister style is all over her new home: “This house is all Jackie',” she said.
When Jackie was diagnosed with brain cancer Richard chartered private planes to bring her for treatment in Duke University's medical center in Durham, N.C.
“She had all the doctors that Ted Kennedy had at Duke,” said Richard,
Colleen moved into the family home to help look after the children. She still vividly recalls the day she asked her to look after her family.
“I remember being in the hallway a year and a half into her illness, and she took off her wedding band, this band,” says Colleen, pointing to the ring on her left hand, “that Richard had given her, and she handed it to me, and I refused it. And she said: 'I want you to have this. I want to know that this is the three of us. Don't ever leave my kids.’''
She passed away in June 2008, three months later Richard and Colleen married.
“All that mattered to me was that it would be OK with my sister, and I could hear her talking to me,”
Colleen concluded. “This is where she wanted me. She wrote it in a letter. She handed me her wedding band. She talked to both of us.
“It took me a while, because I do care about what people think. But it mattered more to me that I had peace, and I felt peace for my sister, knowing that this is what was supposed to happen if she couldn't be here to raise her children.”