Pen pals via bal­loon launch meet af­ter nearly 30 years

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - News - By Is­abella Zarate Jour­nal Re­view

CRAWFORDSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Brit­tney Wel­liver and her fi­ance made a trip last month to Penn­syl­va­nia, where she met her pen pal, Jack Wal­lace, for the first time in 29 years. That’s right, 29 years.

Wel­liver and Wal­lace’s story be­gan when she was 8 years old and at­tend­ing Mol­lie B. Hoover El­e­men­tary School in Craw­fordville. Brit­tney Wel­liver’s third-grade class tied bal­loons with a sim­ple note at­tached. The note in­cluded each stu­dent’s ad­dress in hopes the stu­dents would re­ceive let­ters back. On Nov. 7, 1989, nearly 300 bal­loons were launched into the sky.

Shortly af­ter the sendoff, Brit­tney re­ceived a let­ter in the mail from Pen­field, Pea. The let­ter was writ­ten by Jack Wal­lace. He shared with Brit­tney how he found the let­ter while he was out turkey hunt­ing. He wrote about a turkey he called Ole Tan­gle­foot — one he had been chas­ing for a while. In Jack’s first let­ter, he wrote about how when he woke up the day he found the let­ter he had the feel­ing that “some­thing nice was go­ing to hap­pen to me.”

Later in the day Jack was hunt­ing Ole Tan­gle­foot, and he saw some­thing pink off in the dis­tance. As he ap­proached the pink ob­ject he re­al­ized it was a bal­loon with a lit­tle note at­tached to it. The bal­loon — and Brit­tney’s’ note — had made it all the way from In­di­ana to Penn­syl­va­nia.

As it turned out, “some­thing nice” did hap­pen to Jack that day, and as he be­gan to write his first let­ter, he started a re­la­tion­ship that would be car­ried on for years to come.

As it turned out, when Jack wrote to Brit­tney, she was go­ing through a dif­fi­cult time in her life. Brit­tney’s fa­ther was in jail and be­ing tried for mur­der. When Jack found out about her hard­ships he knew it would be im­por­tant to be­come a part of Brit­tney’s life, thus he kept writ­ing the let­ters. Con­cerned about Brit­tney’s well­be­ing, Jack reached out to her school prin­ci­pal to check up on her. This is some­thing Brit­tney never knew over the course of the 29 years. She found out when they met for the first time.

A lot can hap­pen in 29 years: peo­ple grow up, start fam­i­lies and be­gin their lives; this was all true for Brit­tney. She ad­mits, over such a long pe­riod of time life did get hec­tic, re­sult­ing in less fre­quent let­ters; how­ever, even through her busy sched­ule, Brit­tney still found time to write.

The years passed, let­ters were sent and life went on. Through 29 years Brit­tney and Jack kept up the con­ver­sa­tion, though they had never met. They shared birth­day cards, hol­i­day gifts and even calls over the phone, but it wasn’t un­til one day that they ac­tu­ally de­cided to see each other.

The re­union was one she ex­plained as emo­tional, filled with lots of hug­ging and plenty of tears.

“It’s crazy to think I’ve known him for 29 years, though I’ve never re­ally re­al­ized the im­pact he’s had on my life; that’s not some­thing you think about as a kid,” she said. “Nei­ther of us were ex­pect­ing it to be this emo­tional, and it’s a feel­ing you can only un­der­stand if you were a part of the sit­u­a­tion.”

Jack and Brit­tney sat for hours and dis­cussed their lives, their let­ters and the p a s t 2 9 y e a r s . Ja c k brought Brit­tney a folder of all of the let­ters and cards he had re­ceived, and she did the same. To­gether they com­piled 29 years’ worth of life, a lit­tle bit of his­tory and an ev­er­last­ing friend­ship.

When it came time for the two to part, Brit­tney said it be­came emo­tional all over again.

The mo­ment she got back to In­di­ana she was over­come with emo­tion from leav­ing him be­hind, and from the ex­cite­ment of ac­tu­ally meet­ing Jack.

In at­tempts to pull her­self to­gether, the first thing that came to mind was, “I just have to write him.”

So she did.

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