Pen pals via balloon launch meet after nearly 30 years
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.