Long-Lost Pen Pals Are Reunited In Person

Two women who started writing to each other during World War II reconnect face-to-face more than 75 years later.

Posted in , Mar 26, 2020

Nadine (left) and Akiko

Lonely after my husband died in 1992, I found myself longing to get in touch with my childhood pen pal, Akiko Toyama. In 1944, when I was 10, my mother read about the Heart Mountain Japanese internment camp in Wyoming and suggested that our Omaha, Nebraska, church mail Christmas gifts to families there. Aki, a girl my age, sent a thank-you note. Soon we were writing every month, stories about school and friends and Aki’s life in the camp. Unjust as the camps were, Aki was always upbeat. At the end of World War II, her family returned to Los Angeles, then moved to Hawaii. Our correspondence continued. On her high school picture, Aki wrote, “When it’s God’s will…we will come to meet.” But our letters tapered off after my marriage in 1955.

Almost 40 years later, I prayed that I might find my old friend. When I read about an organization reuniting people from the camps, I contacted it. The group printed my letter in a California newspaper. Aki’s sisters read it, and Aki called the same day. More proof that God was orchestrating every step! Through laughter and tears, we caught up on our lives, our children and grandchildren. In 2010, my son Jeff arranged for Aki to visit me in Nebraska. I took her high school picture to the airport and recognized her immediately. “We’ve been waiting so long!” I said, hugging her. Now, 76 years after our first letter, we’re still pen pals!

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