Penpals with Sidmouth connection meet in USA

PUBLISHED: 16:22 18 July 2009 | UPDATED: 09:42 18 June 2010

PEN PALS for 50 years were reunited in the USA recently when a former Sidmouth woman travelled to the States.

PEN PALS for 50 years were reunited in the USA recently when a former Sidmouth woman travelled to the States.

Sue Cook, 59, had a tearful reunion with Mary Hatchley at the Holiday Inn, Mishawaka, Indiana, and it was all captured for NBC and CNN TV News.

It was the first time the women had seen each other since Mary came to England to spend a fortnight with her pen pal, who she began writing to when she was 11 and Sue was 10.

"I walked into the hotel, came round some palm trees and turned round. Mary stood there. As soon as I saw her I knew it was her.

"We ran together and put our arms around each other," said Sue, who now lives with husband Mick in Stroud, Gloucestershire.

"It was so emotional. Mary put a red, white and blue garland round my neck, then the TV cameras interviewed me."

Sue was educated in Sidmouth and her parents, Gerald and Vera Counter, still live in York Street.

The letter writing began when Mary had to find a pen pal for an English project at school.

With her mother living next to Gerald's godparents in Holmdale, Sidmouth, it was agreed she should write to Sue in Sidmouth.

"I didn't expect it to last so long. We lost contact now and then but our letters always managed to find each other again," said Sue. "I have only moved house twice, which is lucky."

It was in 1972 that she met Mary at Heathrow and spent two weeks showing her the sights of London, Oxford, and Sidmouth where her mother lived.

"She was engaged to be married and bought her wedding dress and veil in Cheltenham and had it sent back home," said Sue, who plans to retire at the end of the year.

Over the years the pen pals have written about major historical incidents as well as sending photos of their growing family.

"I have learnt a lot about life in the US. They are more family orientated, which we have lost."

Mary has two sons and a granddaughter, while Sue has three children and four grandchildren.

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