WEST KENNEBUNK, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - Shiloh Pepin was known for her fighting spirit and her rare and unusual disease.
It left her two legs fused together, earning her the nickname Mermaid Girl.
She was the focus of several local news stories, appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and was the subject of a documentary on The Learning Channel.
“Oh full of life, you would have never known she had a situation”, said her uncle Steven Shields.
She never let her disease, known as mermaid syndrome, get to her.
“Laughing, loud. Just always happy, didn’t have a worry”, Shields said.
When she was born, doctors gave her only a few days to live. She defied the odds and lived for ten years. When she passed away, there was nothing to mark her grave site. Medical bills had taken a toll on the family.
“Everything complied together, there was just no money so I had to do something. Had to raise money for it”, Shields said.
Years later, a couple miles away from the Pine Grove Cemetery where was Shiloh was laid to rest, the Kennebunk High School Class of 2017 was trying to decide what to do with some extra money it had raised.
“Class of 2017 actually raised an abundance of money, so we had some extra”, said class advisor Katie Mooney.
Shiloh passed away in 2009 at the age of 10. Suddenly it clicked.
“So she would have graduated with the Class of 2017”, said Mooney.
If Shiloh had lived, she would have been right there with her classmates.
“It didn’t dawn on me. I just said wow, that would have been cool”, said Shields.
And just like that, there was no question about what to do with that money.
“Definitely remembered her and thought this was a fantastic idea”, said Mooney.
Her uncle says the class’ donation was the incentive he needed to get this done. Using that money, along the funds he raised and a donation from the Bibber funeral home, Shiloh Pepin’s final resting place is clearly marked, along with her baby sister and her mom.
“Everybody needs a headstone and this is beautiful, got butterflies all over it. That’s what she loved”, Shields said.
Shields says he’d like to someday add an even larger headstone, just for Shiloh, in the shape of a butterfly.