Brother remembers twin through charitable acts

Published 11:12 am Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Richard Peterson stands with his daughter, Sara, at a graduation ceremony.

Richard Peterson stands with his daughter, Sara, at a graduation ceremony.

When Roger Peterson’s birthday rolled around on July 26 this year, something was missing: his twin brother.

“For 50 years, he and Richard shared the day,” said Roger’s wife, Candace.

Richard, a longtime Austin resident, died of cancer in early March. Candace knew the twins’ birthday would a reminder of Richard’s passing, so she set out to make the day festive and upbeat while still honoring him. The RR Peterson Random Act of Kindness day was born.

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“I just wanted to make sure he actually had something to look forward to,” she said.

Candace and the website staff at her work put together a Facebook site, but kept it from going live online. If friends started joining the page, Roger might catch wind of the event and the surprise would be ruined. She contacted many people by other means, telling them individually of the upcoming event.

Then, on Thursday night, she revealed her idea to him, and handed him a collection of business cards with the name of the event printed and $5 bills

All Friday, he handed out the cards and money and passed on the idea of random acts of kindness.

“He walked up to people and explained to them what was going on,” she said.

Roger took a liking to the idea.

“It’s been really neat,” he said. “The people I’ve been handing them out to have been surprised.”

He wasn’t the only one to follow through with the random acts of kindness. The people he helped out made it their personal goal also.

“They have really said they’d like to turn around and do something for somebody else,” he said.

A few dozen of Candace and Roger’s friends got involved, too, and joined the Facebook group once it went live. Some people donated clothes to different charities. Others paid for a stranger’s coffee while in line at the cafe, or handed out money. For several, it was as simple as letting someone go ahead of them in the grocery store checkout line or holding a door.

“I think it was bigger than we even knew,” Candace said, adding some people participated but preferred to let their acts go undocumented on the Facebook site. Next year, when there’s no need to keep the event a secret, she hopes to get more social media activity going.

Candace said the event was something Roger and Richard would have done together for fun.

“This is the only blood Roger’s known his entire life,” she said.

For Roger himself, it was a fitting way to mark the first birthday without his twin brother.

“There’s no doubt about that,” he said. “It really helped me have a perspective on the day and realize that life goes on.”