Pen Pals meet after more than five decades of writing

Pair began writing to each other in 1961, meeting in 2018 for the first time

ENFIELD: When Shelley Rutherford wrote a newspaper advertisement looking for a Pen Pal back in 1961, she never imagined that it would grow into a friendship has spanned over the past 56 years and counting.

Rutherford placed that advertisement in The Western Producer, a weekly newspaper in her Saskatchewan hometown. Now, some 56 years later, the two met for the first time.

“I wanted a Pen Pal and Holly (Ferguson) answered my ad,” said Rutherford, who calls Kelvington, Sask. home. “And we’ve been Pen Pals ever since.”

“I was looking for some and I had them all across Canada, Europe and down in the U.S. Shelly’s sounded good and I didn’t have one from Saskatchewan,” chimed in Ferguson.

To give some idea as to the length they’ve been communicating, when Ferguson and Rutherford began writing gas was 29 cents a gallon; John Diefenbaker was Prime Minister; and a weekly wage was $128. The average house cost was $20,000.

“I know my first job, my first pay-cheque was $498 and we’ve been Pen Pals longer than that,” commented Rutherford.

Rutherford said she’s not sure why they have stayed Pen Pals for so long.

“When we first started it was 15 page letters, twice a week,” said Rutherford. “I told her everything, absolutely everything. She knew everything about me, she knew all my trials, what I was afraid of and what I wasn’t afraid of because she couldn’t tell anybody.

“There’s some things you couldn’t tell your best friend because they’re going to go to school and tell, she couldn’t tell anybody.”

Shelley Rutherford, left, and Holly Ferguson met for the first time on June 23 after 56-plus years of communicating as Pen Pals. It all began by Rutherford placing an advertisement in her newspaper in Saskatchewan, and Ferguson spotting it. (Healey photo)

While the writing has simmered from the sometimes twice a week letters, they still remain in contact and send each other Christmas cards and gifts.

“We’ve started emailing each other now, and do that every so often,” said Rutherford.

The one interesting thing is they’ve never spoken to each on the phone.

“We were Pen Pals, we didn’t phone each other,” said Rutherford. “We were supposed to be writing to each other.”

Ferguson said they would write to each other about the boyfriends they were going with; the trips they were going on; what their families were doing; and older, the kids.

“And the man of my life when I met Greg,” said Ferguson.

Rutherford said she noticed the two are quite similar—their decorating style is the same; they both like to garden; and are both close to their family.

“Maybe that’s why it’s lasted so long,” said Rutherford.

“Maybe our inner hearts talk to one another,” added Ferguson smiling.

Ferguson and Rutherford said their friendship clicked right away.

“When I would check the mail and there was a letter from Shelly, I would write right back,” said Ferguson with a chuckle. “I would get a letter back within five or six days.”

The two had never met until June 23 when Rutherford and her husband and another couple arrived as they tour the Maritimes on vacation.

“People asked me before we came the same, asking me if I was scared or anxious,” said Rutherford. “I told them no, not anxious at all. But if I was truthful, the last couple of days I was getting nervous. You always wonder and dream up the personality of a person. I was thinking would we get along, would it be uncomfortable.

Ferguson agreed.

“I was looking forward to it, but the last couple of days I was thinking writing the person is one thing, but meeting the person is another thing,” she said. “But we have clicked.”

When the two finally met, it was relief.

“She came down to meet me and I went towards her and we hugged,” said Rutherford.

Now that Rutherford has visited Enfield, it’s Ferguson’s turn to go visit her.

“I haven’t been to Saskatchewan, but I’d like to see it,” said Ferguson