Pen pals meet for only second time in 63 years of friendship

If friendship was measured in money, then Corrine Eilers of La Crosse and JoAnn Moyer of Pottsville, Pennsylvania would be millionaires.

“Just imagine how rich we would be if we counted up all our stamps, 70 years worth,” said Corrine.

For these two women, the conversation comes easy, especially considering this is only their second time meeting in person. However, their past actually goes back more than 60 years when both were little girls in grade school.

“I remember our teacher saying we were going to try to get pen pals. She had a friend that they went to college together and she had a class in Wisconsin and they wanted their classes to write,” said JoAnn.

With Corrine at a school in Holmen, and JoAnn in Pennsylvania, a friendship was born out of paper and pen.

“I didn’t know anything about pen pals, you know, I didn’t go to kindergarten so what do I know?” said Corrine.

JoAnn said, “I thought, well this is neat. I was an only child so I didn’t have a sister or brother, I thought ‘oh, I’ll get to meet somebody.'”

While their assignment ended that year, their friendship did not. One by one the years past, but Corrine and JoAnn kept on writing.

Corrine said, “it was like writing in a diary, you know, you could confess things and she didn’t care and she could do the same to me.”

“We became very close in letters, like she became my sister and I became her sister. We were just close through letters,” said JoAnn.

They talked about everything. “Everything!” said JoAnn.

“Boyfriends and marriage problems and if we didn’t get our way and there wasn’t very much that we didn’t leave out,” said Corrine.

But with all of life’s ups came some difficult downs. And they were there for one another when it was needed the most.

JoAnn said, “we lost a daughter when she was 30 and that was one of the hardest things, but Corrine was there, comforting me.”

Corrine remembers a letter she received right around another difficult time in JoAnn’s life. “It was her rocking, in a rocking chair with her child knowing that her mother was dying, she had that feeling.”

The two met one other time, in 1982, when Corrine decided to road-trip to Pennsylvania unannounced. She showed up on JoAnn’s doorstep.

“I was so stupid and went and knocked on her door which I sure would shoot her if she did that to me now. Two hours was probably two years worth and to finally meet her and the kids, oh god, they’re wonderful people.”

Unlike ’82, JoAnn’s visit to La Crosse this fall was planned ahead of time and it was as if they had never left each others side after all those years.

“It was amazing. It was like we never stopped talking and seeing each other. It was really neat,” said JoAnn.

Corrine said, “I am so happy them being here and the happiness they’ve brought in my life right now because with my husband dying , it hasn’t been easy. I’ve had pneumonia 3 times in a year and a half and it hasn’t been the best time for me. And then to come in and accept me with all this love, man, it’s like I died and went to heaven.”

Neither believed this friendship would still be going strong 63 years later.

“I certainly didn’t think I’d last this long, let alone be writing all these years,” said JoAnn.

Bu they both know, their lives are certainly richer because of it.

“I don’t ever remember having this closeness, except for when I met my husband. It’s just a warmth from way deep down.. a miracle,” said Corrine.

JoAnn and Corrine are still writing each other once or twice a month. However, JoAnn’s grandkids are teaching her to use a computer and iPad so they migh migrate over to the digital world with their letters.

So many people, strangers who heard about the reunion between these two, made JoAnn’s visit to La Crosse this fall so memorable by providing things like gift cards and meals to give them a warm welcome to the La Crosse community.