By Molly Blaeser, Guest Writer
It’s a typical weekday at Benedictine College. At 5 a.m., most students haven’t started their day yet.
But Sean Sartain has.
As the kitchen lead during the day, Sean is already starting work at the cafeteria.
He begins his day by preparing food for breakfast, then stays busy during the meal keeping food ready. Once breakfast finishes, he cleans up before getting ready for the lunch shift.
Around noon, his identical twin brother Shane Sartain arrives to start prepping for his dinner shift as nighttime lead.
Sean leaves when the lunch shift is over, and Shane seamlessly takes his place for the night.
Unless they’ve seen Sean and Shane side by side, most students probably think there is only one Sartain.
“We really don’t work together that often,” Shane said. “But our favorite thing about being together, especially at work, is how people look at us, especially people who don’t know there are two of us. Even though we’ve been together [working at the cafeteria] for six years, we still get students every single day who do that to us. We get it everywhere we go, especially if it’s like Walmart or something, it’s amazing the way people look at us when we’re together.”
The twins were born on June 9, 1971.
Sean is the oldest, born seven and a half minutes before Shane.
“I was the surprise,” Shane said. “They were taking my mom back to her room when she went into labor with me.”
Their parents named Sean for their mother’s grandfather. Shane was named after the titular character of one of their parents’ favorite movies, the 1953 Western “Shane.”
Ironically, the twins’ horoscope is Gemini, referring to Castor and Pollux, twin brothers from ancient Greece.
“We’re true Gemini twins,” Shane said.
Thomas and Donna Sartain raised their family in Leavenworth, Kan. The oldest child is Starla, who is also the only girl. The oldest son is Tommy, followed by Sean and Shane.
Donna worked at St. Mary’s College in Leavenworth, while Thomas was an auto mechanic with his own junkyard.
“[Sean and I would] completely strip a car in 45 minutes at 8 years old,” Shane said. “Teamwork, teamwork. We could do it together.”
That idea of togetherness would help the Sartain siblings get through a family tragedy: The twins were 12 when they lost their mom. Two years later, they lost their father, too.
“We were devastated,” Shane said.
After the deaths of their parents, Starla took her brothers under her wing.
“We were very, very mature,” Shane said about his three siblings and him. “We were already raising ourselves. Our parents always taught us to be very independent. From the time we could stand, we were cooking in the kitchen. So from the time we were teenagers, we were adults already, we already took care of ourselves, we paid bills, we took care of things.”
Starla not only raised her brothers, she helped them get the jobs they have now.
“Starla and Tommy were working at BC,” Sean said. “[Starla] introduced me to Mary-Ann Estes, who was the catering director at the time, and [Estes] hired me immediately.”
That was in 2006, and Shane followed later the same year.
Being identical twins has its perks.
“We got away with a lot of stuff,” especially during their school days, Shane said.
In kindergarten, the two of them were suspended after fighting with each other for a whole week.
The twins were in the same classes until sixth grade.
In sixth grade, classes were set up so that while some were in one classroom, others were in another. Then after lunch, the sections of students would swap classrooms.
“And I always did really good in these three subjects, he always did really good in those three subjects, so at lunchtime, we’d just go in the bathroom and change clothes,” Shane said. “And we’d go right back in the same room and sit all day long. And they never knew.”
Or Shane would go as his brother whenever Sean called in sick.
“Of course, I’d never have his homework, so when [Sean would] come in the next day, he’d have like 30 hours of detention,” Shane said with a laugh.
Sean even got pulled over on his wedding night by the same cop who’d pulled Shane over for Shane’s first DUI. The cop refused to believe Sean wasn’t the same person, so Sean sat in jail during his wedding night.
“I always got in trouble for him,” Sean said. “I took a lot of the blame for him on a lot of things he did when he was young.”
But, they’re still inseparable to this day.
There’s an easy way to recognize the difference between the two: Shane wears a bandanna under his uniform hat every day.
“We’re about as identical as brothers can be,” Shane said.
Even down to their fingerprints.
“When we put our hands together, we completely match up,” Shane said.
The two also have the same middle initial: E.
Sean Edison Sartain.
Shane Eric Sartain.
And having been born prematurely, the twins are both blind in their right eyes.
It’s an obstacle they’ve learned to overcome, especially in work.
“We have no depth perception,” Shane said. “You get a feel for things after awhile. Together we have a good pair of eyes.”
Because they themselves realize how identical they are, the twins respond to either name. Sean said that even their sister Starla mixes them up.
So, BC students can rest easy the next time you see either of the twins and can’t come up with the right name.
“We know they’re talking to one of us,” Sean said. “We’ve been pretty much used to it our whole lives.”
Students don’t realize the time and dedication the twins put into their work.
While he works every morning and afternoon, Sean also works open to close on Sundays. He’ll even prepare food for Monday morning after his Sunday night shift, staying in the cafeteria extra hours to do so.
From Sunday night to Monday morning, Sean says he averages about three hours of sleep.
“It’s hard. But the main reason why we stay is because of the kids,” Sean said. “This is going to be like my third year now that I’ll have been here all four years with the kids. So when they graduate, I’ll have been here all four years with them. That’s just really special to us.”
Students aren’t the only ones who get Shane and Sean Sartain mixed up.
Even their coworkers do.
“It took me like two weeks to find out they were twins because I always thought it was one person every single day,” said Jessie White, who has been working at the Cafeteria for about two months. “I still get them mixed up. I’ll be like, ‘Shane. Sean. Which one are you?’”
Abel Brayshaw has been working at the Cafeteria for a year. He didn’t know Sean and Shane were twins until someone told him.
“I wouldn’t have known it otherwise,” Brayshaw said. “If they were here together on the same shift, I’d still get them mixed up probably.”
At the same time, sometimes coworkers find the twins easy to tell apart.
“From the get go, I could tell,” said Lin Cameron.
Having worked at the Cafeteria for 30 years, Cameron has worked with Sean and Shane since they first started in 2006.
“They didn’t look alike, they didn’t sound alike and their personalities were different,” Cameron said. “It wasn’t hard to figure out who was who after being around each of them for awhile.”
Brayshaw appreciates both twins.
“I think they’re both good people,” he said. “I like both of them.”
Favorite color? Red
Favorite movie? “Smokey and the Bandit”
Favorite song? “Come to Bed” by Gretchen Wilson
Favorite animal? Fish
Favorite flavor of ice cream? Tin roof sundae
Best part about being an identical twin? Whenever I miss Sean, all I got to do is look in the mirror.
Worst part? Everyone expecting us to be exactly the same, like one identity instead of two.
Favorite recipe? Four Cheese Chicken Tortellini, one of my own creations.
Best advice to give to BC students? Slow down. Everything here in life, you’ve got plenty of time. Don’t try to experience it all right now. And there’s so much pressure on you guys to be grown-ups, but remember you’re still young enough to have fun. Don’t ever stop having fun in life.
Favorite color? Black
Favorite movie? “Animal House”
Favorite song? “Shine on Your Crazy Diamonds” by Pink Floyd
Favorite animal? Meerkat
Favorite flavor of ice cream? Peanut butter fudge
Best part about being an identical twin? I love when people get us confused. I just get the biggest kick out of that.
Worst part? The mistaken identity part: being accused of doing things that I never did.
Favorite recipe? Probably my soup, either my chicken tortilla soup or chicken florentine
Best advice to give to BC students? You’ve got to take life day by day. Don’t take life so serious. It will run you down. Try to enjoy every day.