A pair of pen pals have finally fulfilled their ‘lifelong wish’ to meet in person – 68 years after they started exchanging letters.
Patsy Gregory and Carol-Ann Krause, both 80, have been swapping letters since 1955, when they became girl guides on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
The pair went on to send and receive more than 800 missives, always remembering each other’s birthdays, wedding anniversaries and Christmases.
But they never met in person until Patsy told her daughter Steph Calam, 57, that she’d always wanted to visit Carol-Ann, now living in Conway, South Carolina.
So her family surprised her with a ticket to the USA on her birthday in June this year – which allowed her to fly 4,000 miles for the overdue get-together.
Patsy, who shared a heartwarming embrace with Carol-Ann on July 14, said she had recognized her as soon as she opened her door.
She said: “It was quite emotional, it was lovely. I recognized her straight away, she looked just like her photograph.
“I didn’t feel any nerves, I was excited. It was great to be able to meet her at last.
“It was just as though I’d seen her last week because we’d known of each other for so long.”
Carol-Ann, who was approached by Steph about the visit before Patsy’s birthday, said she was a little more anxious about their first meeting in person.
She added: “It was emotional. I was a bundle of nerves.
“We’ve always remembered each other on our wedding anniversaries and at Christmas and stuff like that. And we’ve still continued corresponding even now.”
Patsy, of Hoghton, near Chorley, Lancs., was 12 when she began writing to Carol-Ann, with the pair discussing their day-to-day experiences.
Carol-Ann was living in Buffalo, New York, at the time, and Patsy admitted she had been particularly intrigued about the teen’s life in the USA.
Patsy said: “In the girl guides, I happened to get Carol-Ann’s name. We started writing and we never stopped. It’s as simple as that.
“It was extremely interesting to learn about her life. The weather, of course, was a big feature. She was living next to the ‘Great Lakes’.
“We would write about what had happened in the day, school, anything that was going on, where we were going, who we went out with – or whatever.
“We were just sharing news, as you would with a friend next door. We sent a lot of letters – at least one every two months – so easily over 400 letters per person.”
As the pair got older, Patsy said she still maintained a lot in common with church accountant Carol-Ann despite living thousands of miles apart.
She added: “We had similar interests and we were the same age. I got married in 1964, she got married in 1965.
“We both had three children. It was just things like that. It was just as though I knew her all my life, but we just never met.”
Patsy said she had mentioned to her daughter Steph that she’d always wanted to meet Carol-Ann before her 80th birthday on June 6.
And Steph then used social media to track down her pen pal’s family in America to ask if they would be interested in organising a meet-up stateside.
Carol-Ann said: “Her daughter said she wanted to surprise her mother with a gift of coming to the USA to see me as it’s something that she has always wanted to do.
“I was more than happy to take her up on the offer. Our birthdays are only separated by a month.”
Patsy said she was thrilled when her children had surprised her with the ten-day trip to America.
She said: “It was an absolute shock to find out. I wasn’t expecting it at all. They’d given me flowers and presents, and a surprise birthday party – I thought that was it.
“But on my actual birthday, they presented me with a card, with a flight to South Carolina.”
During the stay, she said the pair had chatted for hours about their friendship while also taking in the local sights and going out for meals.
Patsy said: “We did a lot of talking, we went out for quite a few different meals in places that Carol-Ann and her husband enjoyed going to.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker