Shirley Ungar (left) and Sherley Unger live in the same apartment complex, just one floor apart. On occasion, the similarity in their names causes some confusion with mail delivery and when guests come to visit.

Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune

Tale of Shirley & Sherley

  • Star Tribune
  • March 29, 2012 - 3:01 PM

Three years ago, Shirley Ungar moved into a second-floor condominium in Falcon Heights, causing quite a stir. That's because Sherley Unger already lived there -- directly above her, one floor up.

"We have two Andersons and two Johnsons," Sherley says. "Would you think we'd have two Ungar/Ungers?"

They each have one grandson, too. Sherley's is named Isaac. Shirley's is named Izaak.

"That's what's so ridiculous," Shirley says. "We only have one grandchild each!"

The women have known each other socially for years.

Both in their 80s, they were active in the League of Women Voters and the University of Minnesota Faculty Women's Club. Shirley's husband, Frank Ungar, taught biochemistry at the University of Minnesota Medical School, retiring in 1988. (He died Feb. 4, 2012.)

Sherley's husband, the late Leonard Unger, taught in the U's English Department for 42 years.

"When we first moved here," Shirley recalls, "the bank got us mixed up. That was the beginning."

They remember with delight running into each other at a small dress shop in Minneapolis' Dinkytown district with their high school-aged daughters.

Now those daughters, Joanne (who belongs to Shirley) and Amy (who belongs to Sherley), e-mail each other about yarns and patterns.

Amy apologizes for not being named Joanne. Shirley and Sherley have unique interests, of course.

Sherley, raised in the little town of Pecos, Texas, still speaks with an ever-so-slight drawl.

She played tennis, volunteered at a hospital and was quite a cook back in the day.

Shirley, from Cleveland, Ohio, played golf and bridge and still is an elegant cook, according to Sherley.

The women are good-natured about the inevitable confusion that comes with their unique pairing.

Sherley remembers a phone call from Shirley's friend, waiting in the lobby, who was "ready for lunch."

She said, "I'm NOT ready for lunch!"

Shirley occasionally gets Sherley's mail. But when Sherley turned 88 in August, her first visitor was Shirley, with a funny birthday card.

"It does turn out to be a very small world indeed," Shirley says. "This has been quite a conversation piece for our two families."

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