From playing instruments and making maple syrup together to keeping the ski slopes of Vermont looking their best, identical twins Cleon and Leon Boyd were never far from each other’s side.
So when the coronavirus pandemic hit their small town, it wasn’t just one brother who became infected, but both.
“They did everything together,” sister-in-law Janet Boyd tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “They even died together.”
The Boyd twins, 64, died six days apart of complications from COVID-19 in April; Cleon, who was older by several minutes, died on April 3, while Leon followed on April 9.
The brothers were beloved figures in their small valley community in southern Vermont, where they grew up on a farm in Dover alongside four other siblings, raising cows, chickens, pigs and geese.
Both men worked as equipment operators for excavating and construction companies, and also as snow groomers at the local Mount Snow ski resort, with Cleon saying in a 2018 promotional clip for the resort that he was “damn proud” of his job.
The pandemic has taken the lives of more than 300,000 Americans. “As the year ends, we wanted to pause and remember the loved ones who have died,” writes PEOPLE Editor in Chief Dan Wakeford in this week’s issue. “There is no magazine that has enough pages to pay tribute to all the people whose lives were cut short; so instead we have told the story of one person from each state in America.” For more Lost to COVID tributes, pick up a copy of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.
“They were the guys everybody loved,” Vermont State Rep. Laura Sibilia, who met the twins while working locally as a waitress, tells PEOPLE. “They were friendly. They always had smiles on their faces… They were the best. Really the best.”
She adds that they loved to show off their skills as musicians, too, and would often perform at a local pub, singing old-time folk music and playing instruments.
Relatives are unsure just how the brothers contracted the coronavirus, but believe it may have been in March at the family sugar house, where they’d meet to boil tree sap to make maple syrup.
“Nine in the family got it, but got better,” Janet Boyd says. “But they got sick from it and kept getting worse.”
Boyd says that the twins were “figureheads” in the community as well as in their family, and that a local trail will be named after them.
In addition to their siblings and extended family, Cleon left behind sons Christopher and Zachari and daughters Naomi and Meghan, while Leon is survived by wife Pamela, son Justin and daughter Jenny.
- Reporting by SUSAN KEATING
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