The Daily Courier/Matt Hinshaw
Chino Valley resident Cathy Namock, right, and her pen pal from England Sylvia Elliott share a laugh at Namock’s home Tuesday afternoon while going over some of their old correspondence with each other. Namock and Elliott have been pen pals for almost 50 years and they just met in person June 30.
It took 49 years of letter writing, but Chino Valley's Cathy Namock finally met her British pen pal Sylvia Elliott at Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport a week ago.
"The bags were dropped and there was a hug," said Elliott, who spotted Namock first.
The two women began writing to each other in 1959 when Namock was a junior in high school. Namock lived on a South Dakota farm, and Elliott was anxious to learn all about American farming.
Namock still has her very first letter from Elliott.
"She asked me if I grazed my sheep on the lower part of the Rockies," Namock said, laughing along with Elliot. "I didn't even know what the Rockies were."
"Let's just say that we had a mutual doubt about the extent of the Rockies," Elliott said, trying to be diplomatic.
Elliott's family at that time was living on a large council estate in England. Council estates are a form of public housing that came into being after World War II when many families like Elliott's had no where to go after being bombed out of central London.
Elliott said her first letters - part of a school project - were on special "air mail" paper and envelopes and "were written with your best joined up writing."
Cathy quickly explained that "joined up" is the British word for cursive.
Initially the two women wrote to one another about every two weeks. As they each married and started having families, the letters came less frequently, but they still came.
They never discussed politics or religion or even the world events they each lived through. Their letters spoke only of the softly unfolding day-in and day-out rhythm of their lives.
About five years ago, they switched to e-mails, and their communications picked up again because it was so quick and easy.
They still send a card and a nice long letter to one another each Christmas.
"Opening a letter is not the same as pressing a key," Elliott said.
In fact, when she gets a letter from Namock, she sets it aside until she can brew a cup of tea and sit quietly, reading the news from America, savoring each sentence.
The two women had never even heard each other's voices until about a week before they met.
Elliott said she was a bit apprehensive about spending a week with her pen pal.
But within minutes of their first phone conversation all that changed.
"I heard Cathy's chuckle over the phone, and I knew we were going to be just fine," Elliott said.
How did the two women manage to keep their sight-unseen friendship going for so long?
"I think it was because we were both willing," Namock said. "Friendship is a two-way street."
Posted: Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Article comment by:
Thanks so much for printing this article for all to read. My friend Cathy is such a great gal and anyone she meets immediately feels as if they have known her all their lives. I miss her here in Fredericksburg, VA where she and her husband lived before moving back to AZ. Janie D'Arcangelo
Posted: Monday, July 07, 2008
Article comment by:
Thank you so much T.M. Shultz for such a great and well-written article. Cathy is my cousin and we, along with other relatives, email quite often so we knew about the up-coming meeting of Cathy and Sylvia and have been so excited for them both. Your article made me feel like I was right there with them. Thank you again! Sincerely, Linda Bilbao