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Pen pals re-connect after 60 years

Managing editor

It was the outcome Gloria (Guyer) Delancey was hoping for but one she wasn’t counting on — finding her pen pal from the 1940s.

The 78-year-old Mifflintown, Pa., resident was surprised and grateful when she was given contact information for Lola Beth Nickel.

In the Sept. 8 edition of this newspaper, a story ran about the two women as teens from different parts of the country writing to each other from 1945 to 1948.

“Over the years, I wondered how her life was,” Gloria said. “I was hoping I wouldn’t find out she wasn’t here anymore.”

Gloria and Lola Beth Nickel, now Lola Beth Ellis of Wichita, had shared many letters — talking about life in their communities and what lay ahead.

Lola Beth said she and Gloria became acquainted through a Mennonite newspaper for teens. She doesn’t remember who wrote first.

At that time, the 14-year-old Lola Beth of Hillsboro was a member of Cottonwood Valley 4-H Club and liked to sew.

“I still like to sew and piece quilts,” Lola Beth said.

Gloria said she was always impressed with Lola Beth from the beginning.

“I guess I was really taken with her ability to sew,” Gloria said.

During the 60 years the two women were not in touch, Gloria thought about her pen pal from Kansas. She recently read a magazine that had a letter from a woman who lived in Hillsboro, making the Pennsylvania woman think even more about her Kansas connection.

She shared this desire with her family and Gloria’s daughter, Jill, took it to heart. Jill contacted the Hillsboro Star-Journal and asked who she could contact to try to find her mother’s friend. The newspaper put out the word through a story and Lola Beth was located.

When Gloria was contacted and told that the Star-Journal had found Lola Beth Nickel, Gloria was shocked.

“I couldn’t believe how easy it was to find her,” she said. “It’s ironic Lola Beth lives in Wichita because that’s where she used to shop when she was younger.”

The Star-Journal contacted Lola Beth and told her Gloria had been looking for her. Lola Beth was surprised.

“I really hadn’t thought much about it,” she said, but after some conversation, Lola Beth began remembering more about her pen pal, becoming excited with the knowledge.

When the women had their first conversation in decades last week, it was as if no time had passed between them.

“We had never talked on the phone before, being a different time then,” Lola Beth said. “It was nice to hear her voice and be able to catch up.”

Since their last conversation, Lola Beth, the daughter of Herman and Elizabeth (Funk) Nickel, had attended Bethel College for a year, worked at Prairie View Hospital in Newton, and attended airline school. She worked in customer service for airlines for nearly 30 years. Her last job was with a photo lab. She and husband Jim have been married for 53 years.

Gloria has been a homemaker and stay-at-home mother, marrying husband Donald more than 50 years ago.

“I didn’t even learn to drive until I was 38, when my youngest started kindergarten,” Gloria said.

These days, Lola Beth still sews and makes pieces for quilts at a local senior center in Wichita.

Gloria loves to plant and prune flowers. Even though she’s had her share of health problems, she remains grateful to be able to do the things she still enjoys.

“I am so happy and grateful to have the opportunity to talk to Lola Beth,” Gloria said.

The two plan to keep in touch by phone, and of course, by mail.

Last modified Sept. 23, 2010

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