Pen Pals Meet For The Holiday

By Maureen Mespell
By Megan Trent

November 25, 2010 Updated Nov 25, 2010 at 8:42 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) -- Most of us remember pen pals, but over the years hand written letters have given way to emails and text messages. One Fort Wayne woman is keeping traditional alive by writing to her Aussie pen pal for more than 40 years now.

Megan Trent sat down with both ladies as they united in the Summit City in preparation for a very special "First Thanksgiving" together.

At age 11, Fiona Willis was an avid cowboys and Indians fan. Living in Australia, she decided she wanted an American pen pal.

"So I was looking on the map and I saw Fort Wayne, and I thought wow, sounds like cowboys and indianas. So I wrote to the Fort Wayne newspaper. That's just what I wrote - Fort Wayne newspaper, Fort Wayne Indiana, and I put a letter in there just saying that I wanted a pen friend and would they publish my letter in the paper."

Dozens of responses later, Fiona and Jeanne found each other. Talk about hobbies and family soon evolved into sending packages, video tapes, and cassettes.

"I will always remember when Watergate happened and the Gulf War. So, we've been through all those things that affected the world, but also things that affected us like boyfriends and all the teenage trials and in a way, Jeanne has been like my diary. I've written about what was happening in my life and how I was thinking. It's kind of safe when you write it to someone a long way away."

The women were married within a year of one another and their first children were born around the same time as well. Forty years into their pen pal relationship, now their kids write back and forth to each other as well.

"We do email now. We don't do real letters anymore. Facebook and we send packages every now and then."

The ladies decided to finally meet in Bali in 2001 then again in Hawaii in 2007. But this is the first time Fiona has been to Jeanne's home and the first time she'll experience an American staple, Thanksgiving.

"I'm just really looking forward to meeting the family. Pumpkin pie and just what goes into it. So, there's a lot to be thankful for."
"We just traveled last week to the southwest so that she could finally see her cowboys and indians."
"Life's good. Life's really good. And right now it's pretty special."

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