Oakham woman meets American penpal for first time after writing to each other for nearly seven decades
Penpals who first started writing to each other in 1950 have met for the very first time – 66 years on.
There were emotional scenes on platform 2 at Oakham railway station as Gloria Allen and Shirley Sloan embraced.
Gloria, 79, travelled from Eureka, California, to meet Shirley, 80, of Mountbatten Road, Oakham, on Friday afternoon.
As the train pulled in at 3.20pm on Friday, the pair were guided to each other by Gloria’s daughter Julie Allen, who had met Shirley twice before.
They hugged, held hands and spoke of their delight at finally meeting each other.
Gloria had travelled to Oakham following a sight-seeing trip to London and the south west of England.
She said: “It is wonderful to be here finally. I’d been meaning to come for years but it never happened until now. We have a lot of catching up to do and it’s great to be here in Oakham.”
Prior to her retirement, Gloria was a personnel officer for the California Division of Highways.
Shirley, who was accompanied by husband Jim, was delighted to be able to meet her old friend properly at last.
She said: “I had tried to go out and see her before - but it was 2001 and when the Twin Towers were attacked we put the plans on hold.
“It’s taken us a very long time to get together but’s it great to see Gloria here.”
Both Gloria and Shirley have three children - two girls and a boy.
Gloria has one step-grandson and Shirley has six grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.
Shirley said: “I was ill in bed aged 14 when a friend gave me some American comics. In the back were some adverts from people looking for pen pals – one of whom was Gloria, who was 12 then.
“We started writing and have been in touch ever since. We’ve spoken on the phone a few times but never met until now.
“It’s an amazing feeling.”
Gloria spent the weekend with Shirley and husband Jim in Oakham before the group headed to the Isle of Wight to see some of Shirley’s family.
Julie, who organised the trip, had previously met Shirley as a teenager.
She explained: “I came here in 1978 as an 18-year-old as part of a study group and got the train from London because I wanted to see mum’s friend.
“I came again last year with a friend of mine who wanted to visit Great Britain. I was determined to get mum here with me too this year.
“It’s great they are together now. I’m sure they have a lot of talking to do.”