Childhood Pen Pals Meet For The First Time After Sending Letters For 42 Years

by Christine Organ
Originally Published: 
Image via Lori Gertz

Pen pals for 42 years, these two friends just met for the very first time

Some might say handwritten letters are a thing of the past, but for Lori Gertz and George Ghossn, handwritten letters have been the backbone of their entire friendship. The two have been pen pals for 42 years – yes, you read that right, 42 years – and they recently met for the very first time. A video of their meeting has gone viral, and their amazing story of friendship will melt even the coldest of hearts.

Lori Gertz – a married mother of two from San Diego, California – and George Ghossn from East Islip, New York became pen pals through a chain letter when they were just 12 and 15, respectively. After sending out half dozen letters in the hopes of receiving a few in return, Gertz received a letter from Ghossn. The rest is, as she said, destiny.

The two wrote letters about once a month, updating each other on their lives, school, and teen angst.

“Many times our letters were just a verbal exchange about what our lives looked like through the ages,” Gertz told Scary Mommy. “When we were young, it was all about the stupid things kids think are important like boy/girlfriends and where we were going on vacation. George was a city boy and I was a country girl [so] there was always something to share.”

Over time, however, as their lives changed, so did the topics of their letters. Gertz said that, sadly, Ghossn lost several family members over the years and he reached out to Gertz during those times of grief and mourning with deeply emotional letters.

“The most memorable was when he wrote me about his feelings about his mother dying on an airplane cocktail napkin while he flew to handle her funeral arrangements in 2006,” Gertz said. “Our relationship took a much deeper direction the day I opened that letter.”

Shortly after that cocktail napkin letter, Gertz’s family experienced their own difficult and public trauma, and she wrote Ghossn “letters that probably left him with his jaw on the ground.”

Throughout life’s ups and downs, the two friends continued to write each other. They shared each other’s joys and sorrows, challenges and successes, and through their letters, they supported each other.

Despite the decades-long length and closeness of their friendship, the two had never met in person until just last month. With the two living on opposite coasts, their paths rarely crossed and, when they did, circumstances kept them apart. But when Gertz, a married mother of two, was getting ready to travel with her 18-year-old son to New York to visit Hofstra University, she decided to suggest a meeting with her pen pal one more time. She was downright giddy – and surprised as hell – when he agreed to meet, especially since he had been a bit reluctant to meet in the past.

Ghossn didn’t back out of the meeting and the two met one morning in April in the lobby of the hotel where Gertz was staying with her son. Hotel staff captured their memorable and emotional meeting on video.

Not surprisingly, the friends’ meeting was emotional and filled with joy. Ghossn was sobbing as he hugged Gertz, and the enormity of it all hit her a bit later after the two had said good-bye.

“It was like the time/space continuum came crashing together and my history was meeting my future,” she told us. “To have my son Jonah meet George was like when I see childhood toys I cherished at antique shows. Kind of a mind blower, you know?”

Not only is it shocking that they two kept in touch for 42 years, but they’ve both kept all the handwritten letters written over the course of four decades. And to answer that question we know you’re all asking, no, there was never a romantic nature to their relationship. Ghossn said he thinks of Gertz as a sister, and since his family have all died, Gertz is his only remaining “family” member.

In some ways, Ghossn is a part of Gertz’s family too. Her husband has known about their friendship since the two began dating, and Ghossn often remembers her kids’ birthdays, her and husband’s anniversary, and other milestones. Because of the close connection between everyone, she was thrilled to share the experience of their meeting with her son.

Image via Lori Gertz

The two plan to continue writing, and Gertz is amazed at the attention their story has generated. Not only is she grateful for her friendship with Ghossn, but with the general celebration of friendship that their story has generated.

“In a world where there is so much chaos and disagreement, not to mention this new and absurd attention on what is fake or authentic news, that there are still people who are reminded of something beautiful in their childhood by a story of reunion fills my bucket.”

The pals’ relationship is a testament to the beauty of a pure and unconditional friendship. Gertz said that Ghossn – and their friendship – is as much a part of who she is as her height and eye color. Gertz credits their friendship to the enduring nature of connections made during childhood, and their loyalty, kindness, and generosity of spirit throughout the years – along with a little something extra.

“I think it’s destiny and grace and all those things that fall from angels and butterfly wings,” she said. “I think the connection flows through who we are as people, but is far deeper and far more spiritually entwined too. And, of course, it’s fun!”

h/t ABC News

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