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A renewed friendship 50 years later
Two boarding school classmates reunite in Statesboro
Altland McAlpine photo Web
Former friends from their early teen years at Overbrook School for the Blind, Kathy McAlpine (left) and Robin Altland, (right) recently became roommates when Altland moved from Ohio over the summer to live with McAlpine, a resident of Bulloch County for the last five years. - photo by JULIE LAVENDER/staff

New roommates Robin Altland and Kathy McAlpine love their new living arrangement.

A Bulloch County resident for five years now, McAlpine first lived in Brooklet with her sister, but then got her own place in Grace Crossing.

“God orchestrated the home,” said McAlpine. “Grace Crossing had just opened. I literally, figuratively and spiritually got in on the ground floor!”

Blind since birth, McAlpine only wanted a ground level apartment and barely got one before they filled.

This isn’t the first time the women, now in their early 60s, have shared a home. McAlpine and Altland met when the two moved into Overbrook School for the Blind as 14-year-old and 12-year-old students, respectively. Both young ladies lived at the boarding school until they graduated from high school.

Unfortunately, the two women lost contact following school. McAlpine eventually married, meeting her future husband at a different school for the blind in Little Rock when both were taking courses.

“I was taking a tax course,” said McAlpine. “I’m terrible at math – I never should’ve been taking that course, but that’s where I met (my husband) James. God works in mysterious ways!”

They married three months later and raised a daughter in the San Antonio area. McAlpine commented that two sightless parents raising a child had its struggles, but they adapted and adjusted, just like other new parents navigating a first child.

The two were married for 30 years when James passed away, and that’s what eventually brought McAlpine to live with her sister in Brooklet.

Meanwhile, Altland lived in the Cincinnati area and worked in quality control for a Braille magazine. She’d stayed in touch with another friend, Lin, from Overbrook, and she and Lin visited each other a couple of times a year.

“Lin’s husband retired from the Navy and they were living in Alabama,” said Altland. “Lin had experienced several small strokes, and her health wasn’t good. Something told me, the last time I visited her, to reach out to some of our former classmates and friends.”



Kathy, was one of those close friends, and through a school website, Robin Altland and Kathy McAlpine reconnected and began to talk on the phone.

“Lin had a massive stroke just after I visited her,” said Altland, “and she passed away six months later.”

Altland said, initially, she was angry with God. “I cried out – ‘Lin, why did you leave me?’ And then I added, ‘God, why did you leave me?’”

Fortunately for both women, their renewed friendship and phone calls helped ease the pain of grief for both – Altland’s grief for her best friend, and McAlpine’s grief for her husband.

McAlpine, more than once, said to Altland over the phone, “I’m going to love you no matter what happens with you and God. And you know what, Kathy? God loves you.”

Altland admitted that even though she’d lived alone for many years, she felt especially alone after her friend Lin’s death.

“There was this one night that I just felt totally alone. Deeper than lonely. Nothingness. Like being in a tunnel. My voice echoing back in my head.”

With support from McAlpine’s friendship and her church in Ohio, Altland’s grief and anger eased over time.

“One day, while on the phone with Kath, she told me about some issues her daughter was having,” said Altland. “I surprised myself when I blurted out, ‘Do you want to pray about it?’ And I really meant it. I did want to talk to God again.”

When Altland lost her job due to the company’s downsizing at the same time as her apartment manager announced that rent was going up significantly, Altland feared she wouldn’t find another apartment she could afford on her limited income.

McAlpine hesitantly suggested that Altland move to Georgia and live with her at Grace Crossing. She didn’t know how her friend from Ohio would like living in the south. “I even prayed, ‘God, Robin won’t be happy here, will she?’”

And Altland admits she prayed similarly with these words: “God, you don’t want me to move there, do you?”

Both of the women laugh now at their prayers.

“We were afraid it wouldn’t work out, and we didn’t want to get our hopes up,” said McAlpine.


Overcoming roadblocks

Roadblocks appeared immediately – How would Altland get to Georgia? Would Altland’s application be accepted for Grace Crossing? Could McAlpine find an affordable washer and dryer?

“God worked out every detail,” said Altland. “My pastor and others from the church volunteered to move me after my application was approved.”

McAlpine added, “You talk about God being in the middle of something. I’d been looking for a washer and dryer for the longest time. And a lady moving to Kentucky was getting rid of them both for just $100. Robin and I had been praying for his perfect will, and when everything fell into place, we knew it was meant to be.”

Kathy McAlpine and Robin Altland are thrilled to be roomies again, this time together in their own apartment. They’ve found a church home – Statesboro First Baptist Church – and catch the church shuttle to get there each Sunday. “It’s like a refreshing shower every Sunday,” said Altland.

McAlpine is thrilled to have the company of her friend from long ago.

“When I was living alone, I felt like I was just existing, just coasting. I’m so happy now.”

The transplanted Northerner agreed, and said, “God didn’t just take me out of my comfort zone; he moved me way down here. It’s the best thing I ever did.”


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