Linda Martin of Gilbert, Arizona and Wendy Norrie of Eugowra, Australia share a 55-year friendship despite never having spoken to each other. The two became acquainted as pen pals for a fifth grade school project. Wendy’s fifth grade teacher, Mr. Wilcox, chose a U.S. school in the city of Wilcox, Nebraska because the town shared his last name. Then 9-year-old Wendy sent the first letter on October 3, 1958 to an 11-year-old Linda, and it sweetly read: “Dear Linda, Our teacher Mr. Wilcox received the letter your class sent to us. … He asked us did we want a penfriend from your class so I picked you.” Linda remembered, “We started out you know, explaining who we were and explaining a little bit about our family.”
Their letter exchanges continued through the years with the girls writing to each other every couple of months, and then into adulthood there were annual letters during the holidays. Wendy said, “We’ve grown and matured and raised families and everything. It’s just somebody on the other side of the world that’s sharing your experience. It’s remarkable.” Recently Wendy wrote Linda that she planned to visit the United States for the first time and wanted to meet in person.
Up until that point, the two pen pals had only exchanged hand written letters and never even spoke on the phone. To speed up their communication, they chose to use e-mail and arrangements were made to meet at Terminal 4 of the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Linda held an Australian flag and was joined by her husband and daughter during the exciting meeting. When Wendy emerged from her flight, the two friends’ joy was evident.
Linda exclaimed, “It’s hard to put into words because it’s just awesome!” “It’s just the anticipation of it all has just been huge. But to actually get here and recognize her was just wonderful,” said Wendy. She will be spending several weeks with Linda and her family exploring the southwest, and Linda plans on visiting Australia in 2015. The decades long friendship has given the two so many stories and Wendy says that still, “There’s so much to say. It’s you know, as if we’re just beginning sort of thing.”