RANTOUL — Darla Ouellette of Rantoul said she never quits something.
And it’s her attitude of never quitting that has led her to a near 23-year sisterhood with Wendy Murphy, Baldwin City.
While they’re not sisters by birth, the pair have considered themselves family since meeting more than two decades ago in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
“I don’t ever quit anything,” Ouellette said. “You don’t have a sister then not have a sister.”
Ouellette and Murphy hit it off when they were matched in Franklin County’s Big Brothers Big Sisters program in 1986. Ouellette was Murphy’s fourth “big sister” in the program, and the fourth time seemed to be a charm for the women, who are separated in age by 15 years.
When they were younger, Ouellette remembers inviting Murphy over to her house to help out on the farm in Rantoul. Sawing wood, horseback riding and bottle-feeding lambs became a part of Murphy’s life on weekends and breaks from school.
“I remember watching the animals, from having babies to getting butchered,” Murphy said.
Away from the farm, Ouellette would meet Murphy for lunch at school sometimes. Murphy not only became a part of Ouellette’s life but also a part of other family members’ lives.
“She became really close to all of my family,” Ouellette said of Murphy. “Looking at old pictures, there’s lots of pictures of Wendy and everyone else. I was always the one taking the photos.”
Murphy was a junior bridesmaid in Ouellette’s wedding, and Ouellette was a bridesmaid in Murphy’s. They’ve experienced graduations, name changes, births and even deaths together.
After being married, Ouellette moved across the state for a period of time, but Murphy continued to visit her as often as she could.
“It’s been cool for me to watch her grow from a little girl to an adult who’s married with two kids,” Ouellette said.
For Ouellette, ending the friendship after Murphy grew out of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program never made much sense to her. Looking back, it’s difficult for her to believe it’s been nearly 23 years since she met her “little sister.”
“I don’t really remember not having you,” she told Murphy.