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‘The bonds keep us together’: Siblings hope ‘Sisters Day’ lives on after cancellation

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FRANKLINTON — For nearly two decades, the Kearney sisters would take time each year to all come back home.

The 10 sisters, along with their four brothers, grew up near Franklinton in what they call “the house on the dirt road.” The rickety remains of the home still stand off Goswick Road — which is now paved, the sisters note.

But as time passed, the girls scattered. Some still live near Franklinton, others in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. The youngest of them 63, the oldest 86.

But regardless of the distance, the bonds of sisterhood have always remained strong. Grace, Carrie, Vickie, Frances, Louise, Marilyn, Ruby, Alice, Katie and Dorothy never lost touch.

“We became each other’s best friends and that only got stronger as we got older,” said Dorothy, whose last name is now Williams. “People don’t understand how that many sisters can get along without problems. Well we have had our problems but the bonds keep us together. It’s the love.”

It was 1997 when Williams, who lives in New Jersey, came back to North Carolina to visit with some of her other sisters. They went shopping, ate out, sewed together and sat around catching up.

Williams proposed that all the sisters continue to get together for an annual Sisters Day. For most of the years since then, the sisters did just that.

Sisters Day evolved to include gift giving, and each year had a different theme: the rainbow, lavender and lace, buttons and bows, African queens, “Little House on the Prairie,” or crossword puzzle quilts, for example. Often they would stop by the house on the dirt road for a photo.

The event eventually gained the attention of The Wake Weekly, which carried the story of Sisters Day over the years. The Kearney sisters were surprised to hear that other community members — both in North Carolina and New England — had started their own Sisters Day with their families.

“We saw that as a good thing so we kept it up,” Williams recalled. And as more and more people followed the sisters’ story, “We started to hear people ask us, ‘What’s next?’” she said.

In recent years, the Kearney Sisters Day hasn’t come together. The sisters had a number of deaths in the family, including the deaths of Grace and Katie. It’s been almost five years since they were last able to arrange a Sisters Day.

That was supposed to change last month, as the Kearney girls planned one final Sisters Day in Wake Forest. But that Sisters Day, too, was canceled after the sudden death of another family member: the daughter of oldest Kearney sister, Carrie Brodie of Franklinton.

Williams said it’s unlikely that there will ever be another Kearney Sisters Day.

“There might be another opportunity but we’re all up in age now,” Williams said, adding that medical issues make travel hard on many of the women.

Instead, the sisters will try to get together in smaller groups.

That means the future of Sisters Day lies with other families, the sisters said. The Kearney sisters are urging anyone who has followed their story to keep the tradition alive.

“We hope that those who have followed our journey have enjoyed sharing our memories with us,” the sisters wrote in a statement to The Wake Weekly. “And as for us, they will never die, because they are a part of who we are. So please, live each day to the fullest, love and appreciate your family, and most important, slow down and count your blessings.”

The sisters also urge families to “bridge the gap and set matters straight” because time with each other is short.

“We encourage all families to get together as often as they can, for no special reason other than to celebrate each other as a family unit,” the sisters added.