Friends come and go. Sometimes you grow apart and go your separate ways but sometimes friendships endure, even if they are separated by thousands of miles—and sometimes even if the friends have never actually met.
For 51 years, two pen pals grew up together, never meeting, until they decided to plan a long-awaited trip.
In the 1960s, in Alberta, Canada, 12-year-old Mary Richardson published a message in a teen magazine asking for a pen pal. Two thousand five hundred miles away in Alabama, Yvonne Betowt responded and the two girls began their life-long correspondence.
Through their teens and into adulthood, the girls solidified their friendship, sharing their hopes and dreams in their letters. They both married, started careers and families, but eventually the busyness of life made them lose touch.
After 10 years of silence, Betowt managed to track down Richardson via her local library, and the two continued their friendship as if only a day had passed.
“We’ve grown up together, we’ve grown old together,” Betowt told News Channel 5. “We’ve had our children together.”
Yet in that 10 years, both had lost their husbands—Richardson’s in a car accident and Betowt’s to lung cancer.
Now in their 60s, both women felt it was finally time to meet in person.
“We’re both widows, and now we’re just trying to make sure we see each other before it’s too late. We want to do it now,” Betowt said.
As Richardson is a big country music fan, they decided to meet in Nashville, Tennessee, and spend a few days together hitting the town and enjoying their friendship.
On November 5, Betowt waited patiently at Nashville International Airport for Richardson to appear at the top of the escalator. She’d made a “welcome Mary” sign and was excitedly awaiting the moment she would finally meet her dear friend.
“I mean, it’s not a reunion because we’ve never met before,” she said.
But Richardson arrived early and caught her off-guard.
“How did you sneak in on me like this? We had a sign,” Betowt said with a laugh.
Overcome with emotion, Richardson and Betowt embraced in the airport arrivals lounge, shedding joyful tears at the opportunity to meet in person after knowing each other for so long. Smiling and laughing they looked with fondness on one another.
“This is a dream come true,” Betowt said, visibly shaking as they snap a photo together. “I can’t believe it. It’s been 50 years in the making.”