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Closest of penpals who have stayed in touch for 60 years

By Brentwood Gazette  |  Posted: October 27, 2011

  • WRITING: Pat Staley has been receiving letters from penpal Jan for 60 years

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MORE than 3,000 miles of open water have not come between two birds of a feather who started their amazing friendship through the power of the pen 60 years ago this month.

It was in October 1951 that Pat Staley first wrote to Jan Greenwood in the United States while she was a schoolgirl in Leicester.

The first letter she received from Fall River, Massachusetts, was sent on November 17, 1951.

Pat, a retired 74-year-old who has lived in Ingrave Road since 1969, still has that first letter from Jan, who now lives in Tiverton, Rhode Island.

"Dear Pat," it read. "I received your letter and was very glad and surprised to receive it. I will tell you about myself.

"As you already know, my name is Janet Greenwood (Jan for short). I'm 14 years old and will be 15 on November 28.

"I am about 4' 11'' and light brown hair (sorry about the height). I have a sister who was 16 in July and one brother who is 28 and married. My sister's name is Anita and my brother's name is Harold. I don't have any pets."

Since they started writing the pair have shared their own experiences through teenage years, studying, graduation, engagement, marriage and children – and also major world affairs, including tragedies, wars and political upheavals.

Pat, who writes to Jan, who is also 74, and retired, about five times every year, said: "I regard her as a very close friend.

"We tell each other everything – what is happening with our families and what is happening in the country and the wider world. Most of the time it's just about catching up."

It has been 10 years since the they saw each other when they celebrated the 50th anniversary of their transatlantic friendship with a trip to Italy.

Pat, who has been married to 81-year-old husband Norman since 1969, added: "I think it was a geography teacher at school who gave us the addresses. It must have been arranged through school."

The last time Pat heard from Jan was in August: "Our last conversation was three months ago, when we spoke of Kate and William's wedding. What a glorious affair!"

The two friends are hoping to see each other again when Jan plans to visit the UK, and London in particular, in the spring.

Pat added: "We are very close friends – her views are very similar to mine. It is very special to have that news and updates from America. I still have most of her letters and it would make a wonderful collection of how the world has changed through the years."

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