"We all got along pretty much from the beginning," Margaret Sugg says of her roommates

By Tiare Dunlap
January 10, 2017 12:37 PM
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“Everybody’s interested in how in the world we’ve gotten along so well for so many years,” Barbara Fletcher tells PEOPLE.

“And the answer is we don’t know,” the 76-year-old continues. “We fell into a really good situation and it has just continued to work well.”

Working well is an understatement. For five decades, Fletcher and her roommates Nancy Fassett, 85, and Margaret Sugg, 87, have lived under one roof – supporting each other through career changes, relationships and all of life’s travails.

“We all got along pretty much from the beginning,” Sugg says of the trio’s meeting in a group home in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., in the late 1960s.

“It was built in that we all enjoyed the same things – cocktail parties, politics, movies and the theater,” Fletcher adds.

At the time, the three women never would have guessed they’d remain together for decades.

“I think we thought we would live together for a couple of years and then we’d get another job or get married or something like that,” Fletcher says. “But none of that ever happened – we’re still together.”

Credit: Courtesy Margaret Sugg, Nancy Fassett and Barbara Fletcher

“And likely to remain so!” Sugg, a former congressional staffer from North Carolina, adds. “We consider ourselves a family after all this time.”

Making It Official

After Fassett, a school librarian from Minnesota, had lived in the house in Georgetown for over 10 years (initially with different roommates and later with Fletcher and Sugg) she decided she was tired of the renting life.

So the three women began looking at properties together with the mindset that even if they parted ways eventually, a house would be a good investment.

After two years of searching for the perfect place, the women fell in love with a 5-bedroom home in Bethesda, Maryland, in 1975.

“The house had everything,” Sugg recalls fondly, “a pool, a wet bar and space for a darkroom because we all loved photography.”

While initially hesitant to leave the city, the roommates were delighted to find their friends and co-workers were always eager to visit.

“We had pool parties in the summer and other parties when it got too cold,” Fletcher, a former congressional staffer from North Carolina, says.

Credit: Courtesy Margaret Sugg, Nancy Fassett and Barbara Fletcher

“We entertained a lot of Congress people and senators,” Sugg adds. “They used to call us the P street girls.”

The fun didn’t end there. The group also had a tradition of celebrating major holidays with “mystery trips.”

“For special weekends someone would plan a trip and not tell anybody else anything except where they were supposed to appear and at what time,” Sugg says.

Soon more friends wanted to join in. The ladies were happy to have them.

“We’d send out clues once in a while and people were just killing themselves trying to figure [the destination] out,” Sugg says. “But nobody ever guessed it.”

A Tempting Offer

The happy household came close to breaking up when Sugg was offered a marketing job with Avon cosmetics in New York City. Sugg says she considered trying to have the best of both worlds by accepting the job and keeping her room in the house, “but that would have been really expensive.”

Credit: Courtesy Margaret Sugg, Nancy Fassett and Barbara Fletcher

Ultimately, Sugg decided to stay put.

“It turned out I liked cherry blossoms better than I liked big apples,” Sugg jokes. “I like this area a whole lot and I’m not sorry that I didn’t go.”

Sugg and Fletcher eventually got into real estate sales while Fassett continued working in education. They all dated, but nothing ever got serious.

With no spouses or children, they formed a family unit of their own – and grew close to each other’s relatives.

Credit: Courtesy Margaret Sugg, Nancy Fassett and Barbara Fletcher

“Everybody’s siblings are everybody else’s siblings,” Fletcher says. “Nancy’s sister is my sister and Margaret’s sister is my sister too.”

“It works out so well,” Fassett adds. “Our families love to visit us because we’re so much fun.”

All three women retired during the 1990s and soon filled their schedules with travel to the vacation home they built at the shore in Duck, North Carolina, their timeshare in Aruba and whatever new destination struck their fancy.

Credit: Courtesy Margaret Sugg, Nancy Fassett and Barbara Fletcher

“We’re always thinking about where we go next!” Fletcher says.

A New Start

In October 2014, the trio said goodbye to their home in Bethesda and moved in to Asbury Methodist Village, a retirement community in nearby Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Since then, they’ve been making good use of the wet bar they installed before moving in to entertain friends and neighbors.

“Our neighbors are really friendly and we feel like we’ve known them forever,” Fletcher says. “It feels like being in the south where people just pop in.”

Many of these visitors often tend to ask the question the ladies have been answering for years: How have you lived together for so long and not killed each other?

“I think that’s the thing we hear the most,” Fletcher says, “that people can’t believe we have managed to live together for this long and remain friends. We can’t explain it but we feel lucky that we have.”

“Having the friendship of these women and being able to rely on them all the time makes for a really happy experience,” she says.