After more than 50 years of corresponding through good old-fashioned handwritten letters longtime pen pals Evelyn Wambeke of Deaver and Judi White of Maine finally met for the first time last week when White paid a visit to Wyoming. It came as no surprise to either that it was like a meeting of old friends. Both described the meeting with one simple word–easy.
The two, both retired and now in their 60s, began corresponding as part of a sixth-grade class assignment. Wambeke said she looked on a map and selected the pen pal located the furthest away from Wyoming. At the time she was a student in Powell and had no idea that the letters would lead to a lifelong friendship that developed through letters that shared news of their marriages, the birth of their children and other significant events in their lives.
White said, as she recalls, each student in her class was given a name and address. Neither can remember the name of their respective teachers who gave them the pen pal assignment.
“I think she remembers more details than I do,” chuckled White. “We’re talking 50 plus years ago; neither one of us really remembers all the details.”
White said she always wanted to see Yellowstone Park but most of all wanted to finally meet her pen pal. She said over the years the two never spoke on the phone and, up until about two months ago, never exchanged emails.
“That technology just didn’t exist back then,” she said.
Their letters to each other were pretty routine, at first comparing the differences of living in the West versus living in the East, but a special bond grew between them to eventually include more details about their lives. At times when they were busy, a catch-up letter at Christmastime was about all either could muster up, but their communication stayed consistent through the years.
“We didn’t really write a lot in those Christmas letters, just about the big stuff that happened over that year,” said Wambeke.
Wambeke said she moved around the state of Wyoming quite a bit over those years before settling on the family farm in Deaver. White is originally from Bath, which is located in the southern part of Maine. She made a move to the nearby small town of Bowdoinham, Maine, when she married. She has lived in the relatively small town of Bowdoinham (population 2,889) for the past 47 years, raised a family and worked as a nurse.
“I tell you what, people have a bucket list,” said White. “I don’t have one myself, but if I did, meeting Evelyn would have been at the top of my list.”
Wambeke said she was equally excited to meet White and she and her husband planned to give White and her husband a tour of the area.
By Patti Carpenter