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Friendship that delivers

Longtime on-again, off-again pen pals meet

July 17, 2010|By HEATHER LOWERY
  • Kathleen King of Clear Spring, left, reunited with pen pal Evelyn Barrington of Omaha, Neb. The two started out corresponding as fourth-graders when King responded to a My Weekly Reader pen pal listing. After losing touch for many years, the two met for the first time in May.
Submitted photo,

CLEAR SPRING - It all started with a letter in 1939.

Kathleen King, 80, of Clear Spring, and Evelyn Barrington, 80, of Omaha, Neb., have been pen pals off and on for more than 70 years.

"We've been writing to each other since the fourth grade. We connected through My Weekly Reader, a little newspaper that came out weekly to the elementary schools," King said.

Barrington remembered reading in the elementary newspaper about pen pals and decided to write to King

"I saw her name in (My) Weekly Reader and I wrote to her," Barrington said in a telephone interview from her Nebraska home. "I got a letter back and a picture."

"We wrote letters to each other from the fourth grade through the 12th grade," said King.

The friendship was formed through letter writing, but the women occasionally sent presents to one another.

"We exchanged Christmas gifts and birthday gifts," King said. "I still have one or two little things that she sent me for Christmas. She sent me a tiny cedar chest one time."

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High school graduation brought the letter writing to a close, at least temporarily.

"We lost touch after high school, though," King said. "We both graduated in 1947. We got married and had everything else that was going on."

They still sent each other Christmas cards. It was the rediscovery of one of those Christmas cards that sparked the friendship again.

"She was married first," King said, "and she sent me a Christmas card with a picture of her baby son on it. And about one and a half years ago I was going through my pictures and I found that card. On the back of it was the name of her son."

Eager to speak with her pen pal, King called information in Omaha, got the number of a family member who put her in touch with Barrington's son, who lives in New Orleans. Barrington's son provided King with his mother's phone number.

"I called her and asked her if she remembered a Kathleen Hawbaker, my maiden name. After a pause, she remembered," King said.

It took one phone call to keep the letter writing going.

"We started corresponding again through letters. We write about once a month or every six weeks," King said.

King and Barrington write about a variety of things.

"We write about our daily activities and what we're involved in. We share about our families and talk about what we do and what the children are doing," King said.

Even though King and Barrington have been writing to each other for all these years, they had never met. So in May, when King was in Ames, Iowa, for her grandson's college graduation, she and her daughter drove to Omaha.

"We met Evelyn and her sister for lunch and went to her home for dessert and then we drove back to Ames," King said. "We had never met until that day. We never even talked on the phone until I contacted her."

King was not the only one who was anxious and excited.

"She was waiting to greet us at the door," King said. "We exchanged token gifts and it was a lot of fun."

There were many feelings that King said she had during the reunion, too many to describe.

"It was such a unique experience, after all these years of writing to each other and finally meeting each other. It was something else," she said.

Barrington felt the same way.

"I loved her right away, I felt like I had known her all these years. It's a strange feeling," Barrington said.

Awkward, though, was not one of those feelings.

"It was just like we already knew each other from writing all the time. It was like old friends coming together," King said.

"It was such a beautiful thing, I never experienced anything like that," Barrington said. "After all those years and then hearing from her, it was amazing."

King describes Barrington as very friendly, outgoing, and a lot of fun. Barrington uses some of the same words to describe King.

"She's lovely, a very warm, loving person, and full of fun," Barrington said of King. "I couldn't ask for a nicer friend."

King is happy to continue letter writing.

"There's not much letter writing anymore with all the technology. I always look forward to her letters. I think it's very fun to get a letter in this day of instant texting," King said. "I enjoy writing letters, cards and notes. I think everyone enjoys getting letters."

King and Barrington rarely speak on the telephone, they would rather continue the letter writing. According to King, it is more exciting that way.

Barrington and King will continue their friendship, and both have said they will remember the feeling of being united in friendship forever.

"There's such a warm glow between us, we loved each other immediately," Barrington said. "It's something that you never forget."

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