Woman an advocate for disabled

King opens her home to people with impairments

Carmen Reynolds
News Journal correspondent

The electric wheelchair makes a low whirring sound as Marc LaPeter enters the living room. LaPeter, 24, lives with Mary King and her five children.

King is doing on a much smaller scale what the main characters in her newly released book "Stolen Shadows" accomplished. She has opened her wheelchair accessible home north of Milton to LaPeter, a friend with physical disabilities.

Mary King, center, who works with the disabled and is an author, invited Marc LaPeter, foreground, to move from New York and stay with her family. King's children, from left, are Daniel King, 14; Karen King 11; Suzanne King, 9, being held by her mom; Sara King, 17; and Donald King.

Karena Cawthon

In King's book, Drs. Bryan and Lauren McFadden are medical professionals who treat patients with every type of impairment.

King is comfortable with that environment because she grew up with two brothers who had cerebral palsy. And three of her children have disabilities. Suzanne, 9, is severely developmentally delayed. Two sons, ages 14 and 16, have Attention Deficit Disorder and are mildly mentally delayed.

After receiving her degree in psychology, King went to work in a spinal cord injury rehabilitation center and began to concentrate on the socialization aspects for people with disabilities.

She and LaPeter met in a disability chat room a few years ago where he lamented his difficulties as a quadriplegic living in a government subsidized apartment complex in New York. Break-ins at the complex occurred monthly, and when he fired a nurse, her husband broke into his apartment.

"When they didn't show up for work, I was left for hours at a time with no assistance to eat or take care of personal needs," he said. That's when King, a lifelong advocate for people with disabilities, made him an offer he could hardly refuse - her home.

LaPeter didn't ponder long before leaving his living situation and moving to Milton.

"My friends in New York still can't believe that things are OK and life is good. Mary has a heart of gold and would do anything for someone first before herself."

After the sudden death of her husband in 1997, King turned to writing as a form of therapy. As an author, freelance writer and speaker, she advocates for the rights for people with disabilities.

"People like Marc can have a normal life," she said. "They like to go shopping, to church, to parties, out to eat and to work."

"Spiral Passage," King's second book in her trilogy, is at the publisher's.

"Although a lot of people with disabilities read my books, they are not my target audience," she said. "I show people what it is like on a daily basis to live with a disability, hoping to break down the barriers."