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Family saves children orphaned twice

June 18, 2007, 5:15 2990 www.woodtv.com Five orphans adopted by a loving Grand Rapids nurse were orphaned a second time by her death, and have been adopted again by her friends

GRAND RAPIDS -- Five orphans adopted by a loving Grand Rapids nurse were orphaned a second time by her death, and have been adopted again by her friends.

Sue Rankin, an emergency room nurse at Blodgett Hospital, had adopted six orphans through the years, all from overseas. One by one, Rankin's family grew to six, with children from Russia and Ukraine. The five children still at home: Lindsey, Erica, Austin, Steven and Benny.

In April, Sue whet into the hospital with a flu she couldn't shake, and discovered it was stage four ovarian cancer. She never came home again.

When asked where his mom is, Sue's adopted son Benny says, "heaven."

When Sue died on June 6, she left her five children orphaned again, but fortunately left behind some remarkable friends, as well. Sue's friends Joe and Lisa Zielinski took in all five children.

"We always wanted a big family," Lisa said. "It's not the way we thought it would happen, but our prayers were answered, too. I think people forget, thinking how 'remarkable' we are, how blessed we are by this situation."

Lisa said she and Joe never discussed if they should adopt the children, only how they would make it happen.

"There's nowhere else we'd be. We wouldn't have our son Nick if not for her, so we promised each other in the hospital she'd look out for us and we'd watch over her babies. There was never any question about it," Lisa said.

The couple and their son, Nicky, moved into the Rankin's house so the kids could remain in their home.

The Zielinksis' family grew from three to eight on Thursday when they got official guardianship of the Rankin children.

A memorial fund for the Rankins has been set up at the LaSalle Bank. Donations can be addressed to the Susan Rankin Children's Fund at LaSalle Bank, 2005 Breton Rd. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546

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