These Penpals Have Been Writing Letters to Each Other for 70 Years

The coronavirus pandemic has nothing on Jill Stretton and Cathie Alexander, two penpals who’ve forged a robust long-distance friendship for the past 70 years. Now 82 years old, the pair have been communicating by mail since 1950, when a family friend of Stretton’s shared an address with her after a trip to Scotland.

Stretton, who lives in Australia, began the correspondence with Alexander, a trend which remains consistent up to this very day. As might be expected, the two women did have opportunities to meet throughout the decades, though it was only three times in all, with the last encounter back in 2000. Despite the lack of in-person facetime, Stretton and Alexander’s words saw one another through full lives of happiness and drama, including adolescence, marriage, and funerals.

In addition to the letters, the women shared gifts as well. Speaking to ABC Australia, we learn that the gifts included a shawl sent to Stretton to celebrate the birth of her first daughter, fabric which would also be used to swaddle her first great-grandchild. 

Knowing how to keep a friend is more important than gaining a new one. - Baltasar Gracian

Of course, communication is a bit more streamlined these days, and the pair have made use of technology like email messages. They even tried video calling, though it did not quite work; maybe the written word just makes more sense to their relationship? Regardless, this found-family friendship seems as resilient as can possibly be, and though these octogenarians may rarely meet in person, their bond is obviously ironclad.

It’s something of an inspiration in these times when the holiday isolation strained the normal routine. For those who missed out and stayed in place, consider sending a letter to a loved one!

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