In 1965, 12-year-old Pat Fedor sat down and wrote a letter to another girl she’d never met before and who lived on the other side of the world.
The Edmonton girl did not know it would be the beginning of a 51-year friendship.
That year, Denise Brown’s father came to Canada on business and ended up being invited to Fedor’s house for dinner.
In conversation, she learned the visitor had a daughter her age, all the way across the Pacific Ocean, in New Zealand.
“I asked if she might write and I gave him my address. We’ve been writing ever since,” Fedor said.
Over the years, both women poured their hearts into handwritten letters.
“You could say anything to the person,” Brown explained. “It became a very good best friend and you could write down any thoughts and feelings.”
The two exchanged letters the old-fashioned way – once a month – for decades.
“I knew it took two weeks to get it by air mail to New Zealand, so if I mailed on a Monday, I’d mark on my calendar,” Fedor said. “I knew two weeks later, she’d probably be reading my letter. I remember being excited and thinking, ‘In another two weeks, I’ll probably hear from her!'”
Getting those letters was magical.
“I was excited – I couldn’t wait,” Fedor recalled. “I think that’s kind of an art that’s missing now. With things being so quick and quick communication. There was great anticipation and there was a lot said. We used to write pages and pages.”
The women shared every aspect of their lives with one another.
“We were in school, just even studies and then choosing careers, choosing husbands, having children and all the issues that come with it,” Fedor laughed.
Their children provided much fodder for their correspondence, including potty-training and temper tantrums.
Over the years, the pen pals eventually changed how they communicated.
“Telephone calls just didn’t happen 50 years ago. Then the technology got better and so therefore we did ring,” Brown explained. “Then we emailed too, didn’t we? That was quicker. And then of course we got to the stage where we could just email and that was magical. Now we can FaceTime and Facebook.”
In their 30s, the friends finally met face-to-face for the very first time.
“It was just incredible to meet someone that you had corresponded with for all that time and it clicked, didn’t it?” Brown said.
Now, they’re meeting for the fourth time. Brown was keen on experiencing a white Canadian Christmas. She had her hopes set on a horse-drawn sleigh ride and as luck would have it, it snowed as the friends checked it off her list.
They’ve also gone on a tour of some of Edmonton’s best Christmas lights, visited the Ice Castles, had a coffee at Tim Hortons and made snow angels – all the while, catching up.
“It’s just easy to be with her,” Fedor said of Brown. “She’s got a great sense of humour, very practical and calming. Even when we would write, if there was stress going on, she’d give advice or support.”
Brown spoke just as highly of her friend too.
“Pat’s a giver. Pat thinks about other people all the time before herself.”
They say nowadays, their chats aren’t as frequent but they are still all-encompassing.
“It’s like you make a cup of tea and you sit down and you’re ready for a good long chat,” Fedor said. “It’s a couple of hours.”
“And it will continue, until one of us pops off into a better place,” Brown joked.
The friends say the trick to a lasting friendship is keeping up correspondence over the years.