In 1956, when Patricia Kilgore was 5 years old, her parents brought her newborn baby sister home from the hospital.
Susan Pepin was a tiny child and slow to meet the challenges of the world. It took a while for her to talk. She was a step behind in learning how to walk.
Their father, Henry Pepin, was a well-respected physician in Thomasville, also known as the City of Roses.
Patricia accepted that she and her sister were different roses from the same garden. The love between them has always been special.
Susan was one of the first students enrolled in special education classes in Thomas County. Patricia drove her little sister to school every morning in her Volkswagen.
Their mother, Sara, was among the founders of the first Arc in Thomasville in the late 1950s. She later became president of the community-based organization, which serves as an advocate for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.
Started nationally 60 years ago in 1953, the Arc has kept the same three letters through a progression of name changes. It began as the Association for Retarded Children, switched to the Association for Retarded Citizens and then evolved into the name it carries today -- Advocacy Resource Center. There are more than 700 state and local chapters and more than 140,000 members.
Susan graduated from high school when she was 21 and received employment opportunities through the Arcs training center. Patricia was on the staff at the training center before moving to Macon, where she taught school and later worked for the telephone company.
When Sara Pepin died in 1989, Susan stayed with her father for 10 years. After he died in 1998, she moved to Macon to live with Patricia. That was 15 years ago this month.
Susan is 57 and now lives independently in a local apartment community. The sisters remain as close as they ever have been. Patricia helps get her little sister to Arc activities in Macon and to her part-time job at Cheddars restaurant.
On Wednesday nights, they attend the family night supper at Riverside United Methodist Church. They also are involved with the churchs backpack ministry, distributing food items to children in need. Susan is proud to have played the role of a shepherd in this years drive-thru Nativity at Riverside.
She enjoys puzzles, watching TV, cooking and tending to her house plants. She has a passion for Christmas lights and decorated two trees in her apartment this holiday season.
Susan also loves to dance and has been practicing her steps to get ready for Tuesday nights sixth annual New Years Eve 2013 Big Bash at the Terminal Station.
The Grapevine band will be playing, and the event is a fundraiser for the Arc of Macon on Sheraton Drive.
The Arc has partnered with the Cherry Blossom Festival for the Cherry Blossom Ball Drop at midnight, an event that drew more than 4,000 people downtown last year.
The ball drop is free to the public. The dance is a ticketed event for a worthy cause. For more information, call 478-477-7764 or visit the website at www.arcmacon.org.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or email@example.com.