Patti Kemmerlin is a bubbly woman whose infectious smile and laugh can brighten the gloomiest of days, many of which she's had during a life filled with health challenges.
A diabetic since her mid-30s, Kemmerlin was eventually forced to retire from her job in the Regional Medical Center's accounting department because of kidney problems. After being placed on dialysis, she returned home. But she's never lost her spirit or zest for life.
"I worked at the hospital for 32 years. I handled the payroll and accounts payable. It was the best job I ever had. I loved it," said Kemmerlin, who said she doesn't spend her life complaining about losing her job or anything else.
Even after having suffered two heart attacks this past summer, she refuses to feel sorry for herself and works to maintain healthy relationships with her family and those closest to her.
"You're dealt the hand you're dealt, and everybody's got something. I treat everybody the same. I was brought up to care about things and people. I just carry it through my everyday life. You just do what you gotta do and go on," Kemmerlin said.
It is Kemmerlin's recognition of the value of all individuals and her ability to motivate them all for the greater good despite her own challenges that earned her recognition as the exemplification of fairness for the month of December as part of the Orangeburg County Community of Character initiative.
Kemmerlin said she was "shocked" at being selected for the honor, but maintains that her positive attitude on life has contributed to her longevity.
"What good is complaining gonna do? Where is it gonna get you? You're not gonna get better like that. Now I have to say, though, that my family cares a lot about me. I have two sisters that take care of me, along with my aunts, my brother-in-law and my friends. If I'm in the hospital, they're taking care of my animals, me, my house, my yard and everything else," she said.
The 58-year-old, who has been a diabetic for 43 years, said she is grateful to be able to still live a full life.
"If you're down and depressed all the time, who wants to be around you? I'm sure there are people that have worse things than I have. I don't feel that it's unfair to me to have everything that I have. I can deal with it. I can go along with my daily life, and there's nothing unfair about it," Kemmerlin said. "I've been there and I've done it."
She attributes her attitude to her late parents, Michael and Patricia Kemmerlin.
"It comes from my parents and then being around the people that I'm around. I know that they love and care about me," Kemmerlin said. "I gotta be there for them, too, so I gotta keep myself going. They help me to do that."
She said she can remember only one time when she felt like giving up.
"I was ready to give up last year when I had my second heart attack. Then I said, ‘No, I'm only 58.' My dad died at 59, so I said, ‘No, my family wouldn't be able to get along without me,'" Kemmerlin said, laughing.
Her sisters are Michelle Crane, a teacher at Sheridan Elementary School who was the Community of Character honoree for December 2008, and Payson Borst, a recently retired teacher.
Kemmerlin said her philosophy of life is simple and she appreciates the county's Community of Character initiative for recognizing individuals who demonstrate good character.
"Do what is right and be happy. There's no need to be upset about anything," she said. "Don't let anybody upset you. Life's too short.
"It's very nice to be recognized. I think if you're recognized, you might carry the character forward a little bit more than you would otherwise."
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