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In One Ear: Pen pals

Two women continue 60-year correspondence
By Elleda Wilson

The Daily Astorian

Published on August 31, 2018 12:01AM

“The story of Wendy Cumming from New Zealand and I began 60 years ago, as we became pen pals, writing about growing up, getting married, having children and the times of our lives,” Astorian LaRee Johnson wrote. The pair are pictured; LaRee is at left.

“Recently, Wendy arrived in Astoria to visit me for a few days (her fourth visit). … We had a ‘girl’s vacation’ with sightseeing, shopping, dining out at all the favorite places in Astoria. And plenty of talk.

“When we first began writing, we discovered we were born on the same day, same month and year. We did not meet in person for 25 years, and it made the front page of the local New Zealand paper in 1982 (Christchurch Press, shown), as we recognized each other at the airport.”

“After 60 years of writing, there have been lots of fun stories,” she recalled, including Wendy and her husband visiting for Christmas 2008, hoping for snow. In a be-careful-what-you-wish-for scenario, a big snowstorm blew in.

Undaunted, they drove to Walla Walla, Washington, and kept going even after a big truck bashed in the back of the van. “We voted 3-1 to proceed,” LaRee recalled. “The one ‘no’ vote was my husband, the driver.”

Over the years, the pen pals have also involved their children. “Wendy’s daughter, Sheryn, was able to enroll in Seaside High School for six months,” LaRee explained, “and two years later Rhett, my son, was off the attend Takaka High on the South Island of New Zealand for six months.” Now their children email each other. “No snail mail, these days,” LaRee noted.

“Wendy and I had our first grandchildren the same year, the same month and only three days apart, and both are girls, Olivia and Alana,” LaRee added. “The story continues to unfold in the third generation, with many happy surprises!”


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