Pen­pals get it write

North Harbour News - - NEWS - By HAN­NAH MOR­RIS

The only thing sep­a­rat­ing two re­mark­able pen-pals is the Tas­man Sea.

Lois Ea­gles and Elvie Preo’s friend­ship spans six decades of let­ter writ­ing that emerged out of a school project when they were young girls.

The Tor­bay ‘‘townie’’ and the South Aus­tralian ‘‘coun­try girl’’ are both 72 and call them­selves sis­ters.

‘‘There’s not much we don’t know about each other,’’ Lois says.

They’ve shared teenage years, birthdays, mar­riages, preg­nan­cies, their chil­dren’s wed­dings, even di­vorce, via let­ters.

Lois first in­tro­duced her­self to Elvie as a 12-year-old St Cuth­berts stu­dent in 1954.

She grabbed Elvie’s let­ter from a bunch sit­ting on a desk after a class­mate sent a re­quest to Aus­tralia for pen-pals.

‘‘I didn’t re­ally think about it – I just picked it up. And here we are to­day,’’ she laughs.

The women have vis­ited each other in their home towns nu­mer­ous times with the most re­cent be­ing Elvie’s visit to the North Shore in late Novem­ber in cel­e­bra­tion of their 60th ‘‘friend­ship an­niver­sary’’.

They couldn’t be hap­pier in each oth­ers company but the trip was tinged with a hint of sad­ness.

‘ ‘ It may be the last time we see each other. I’m not fit to travel and we’re both get­ting older,’’ says Lois, who had a stroke sev­eral years ago.

They’ve of­ten talked about mov­ing to the same coun­try but fam­ily ties have al­ways held them back.

‘‘I would love noth­ing more than for Lois to come and live in Bega but she’s got fam­ily here and I’m wed­ded to my part of the world too,’’ Elvie says.

Be­ing dif­fer­ent is what she says makes their bond so strong.

‘‘I’m a coun­try bump­kin and she’s a city girl – but we j ust fit. Right down to fin­ish­ing each oth­ers sen­tences.’’

Lois, a for­mer hair­dresser and salon owner, re­mem­bers her first trip to Aus­tralia like it was yes­ter­day.

‘‘When I got there it was like I al­ready knew the place. Elvie had de­scribed it so well in her let­ters. Meet­ing her fam­ily was j ust like com­ing home,’’ she re­calls.

The friends have holidayed to­gether around Aus­tralia and New Zealand and Lois is the god­mother to Elvie’s daugh­ter.

They talk on the phone more than they write let­ters nowa­days but agree there’s still a dis­tinct magic in putting pen to pa­per.

‘‘There’s noth­ing quite like get­ting a let­ter. It’s like noth­ing else mat­ters. Ev­ery­thing goes on hold un­til I’ve read it at least twice,’’ Lois says.

It’s a bond that has out­lasted many of life’s mile­stone events and they agree it’s not about to end any time soon.

‘‘We’re just two women that click. It’s that sim­ple,’’ Lois says.

Best friends,:

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