Joanne McQuay (left) enjoys a visit from her pen pal and best friend of 58 years

Joanne McQuay (left) enjoys a visit from her pen pal and best friend of 58 years

Friendship started by a pen

Joanne McQuay of Vernon met her best friend a lifetime ago in an unlikely place – Bermuda.

Joanne McQuay of Vernon met her best friend a lifetime ago in an unlikely place – Bermuda.

For 58 years, McQuay has been exchanging countless letters with Marlene Warren, a 69-year-old retired teacher living in Hamilton Parish, Bermuda.

The friendship began when Warren stumbled across McQuay’s name in the back of a magazine one afternoon at the Salvation Army’s Sunday School.

“There was a list of names of people who wanted to be pen pals and I chose Joanne’s and two others,” said Warren. “I don’t remember the names of  the other two kids. They didn’t really write me back.”

While attending the United Church in Oshawa, Ont., McQuay figures the churches were using the same magazine. Neither can remember the magazine’s name.

“I just thought it would be fun to write to someone. I never thought they would be in a different country,” said McQuay, who just celebrated her 71st birthday.

“We talked about school, family and friends, and everyday life,” said Warren. “A lot of the same stuff we still talk about now.”

McQuay grew up on a farm just outside Cambridge, Ont. and has lived out west since 1970.

Warren believes she was 10 and McQuay was 12 when they first got in touch. It wasn’t until Warren attended Ottawa Teacher College eight years later that they first met face to face.

“We were both so excited,” said McQuay. “We would always send photos of each other back and forth, but it was great to finally meet her in person.”

After their first meeting, their friendship was sealed. The visits became more frequent as their lives evolved.

McQuay made a few trips down to Bermuda the following years. She attended Warren’s wedding in 1967 and went down again for the birth of her first daughter, Tammy.

The two friends exchanged letters every month or so, but can’t begin to fathom how many letters have been written over the years.

“We can’t even put a wild guess on a number — well over 1,000 probably,” said McQuay.

Not all of their long-distance sleepovers came during happy times.

Warren proved how great of a friend she was when she travelled to visit McQuay after her mother was diagnosed with cancer.

“It was so supportive and my whole family appreciated that gesture,” said McQuay.

Warren said that incident was one of the most challenging times they have gone through together.

“I just felt I had to be with her,” she added.

To this day, the two still visit and write each other. Nowadays, they use email, but still write each other for Christmas and birthday cards.

McQuay has a writing background and writes a newsletter to her friend around Christmas time.

“As we got older we didn’t write as much. We had a lot going on with our kids and work, but we still kept in touch,” said Warren.

Warren just finished visiting the North Okanagan and staying at McQuay’s place. Prior to this visit, their last reunion was in 2012 when McQuay flew down to Bermuda.

Warren and her husband are coming off an Alaskan cruise and will make their way over to Banff and Calgary before heading home.

The two are world travellers these days. Both retired, McQuay just returned from a trip to Spain, Portugal and Morocco.

Warren travels with her husband, and most of the time it is to go and see her kids or grandkids, who are scattered all over the globe.

When Warren began talking about McQuay, who is “absolutley my best friend,” she began to tear up.

“Joanne and I have so much in common, I think God put us together. She is the nicest person to know and I’m so happy we have been pen pals over the years.”

Without hesitating, McQuay said she felt exactly the same way and claimed that both of their fathers even resembled one another.

The two best friends are already looking forward to their next reunion and to celebrate the 60th anniversary of their friendship in 2017.

“We better start planning something fun!”

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Public input on the City of Enderby’s proposed 2021 budget is open until 3:30 p.m. Monday, April 19, 2021. (City of Enderby photo)
Enderby’s proposed 2021 budget open for public input

The proposed spending plan includes a 2.2 per cent tax increase; public input open until Monday

Coldstream students took over the Your Letters page in the April 9, 2021, edition of the Vernon Morning Star to offer advice to adults about COVID-19. Interior Health took notice and offered their praise. (Vernon Morning Star)
Coldstream students’ COVID advice praised by Interior Health

Grade 2 and 3 classes from Coldstream Elementary took over the Morning Star’s Letters page April 9

Members of the Okanagan Screen Arts Society received a cheque for $1,500 Thursday, April 15, 2021. The funds are to help the society’s efforts as they prepare take over operation of the Vernon Towne Cinema at the end of July. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Vernon dealership gives Towne Cinema a lift

Vernon Watkin Motor Ford, in business for more than 100 years, donated to the theatre with nearly as long a history

Interior Health’s overdose prevention site in Vernon is saving lives. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Vernon’s controversial overdose prevention site saving lives

Site sees fewer problems than expected, but some still want it moved

Vernon Jubilee Hospital. (File photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared over at Vernon Jubilee Hospital

The outbreak affected four staff, 10 patients and led to three deaths in just over two weeks

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a quick roundup of the stories that made headlines across the Okanagan, from April 11 to 16

Photos of Vancouver Canucks players are pictured outside the closed box office of Rogers Arena in downtown Vancouver Thursday, April 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canucks games against Leafs postponed as team returns from COVID-19

The team has had 11 games postponed since an outbreak late last month

Old English design elements can be seen in the sign of the Summerland Farm and Garden Centre in 1993. The guidelines are no longer in place, but some downtown businesses still show aspects of the days when Summerland had a theme in place. This photo was taken by Summerland photographer Dan Dorotich. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)
Summerland’s Old English theme has been abandoned

From the 1980s until the early 2000s, Summerland had design guidelines in its downtown

Penticton bylaw officers tore down a “pretty significantly sized” homeless camp underneath the bridge near Riverside Drive Friday, April 16 morning. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton bylaw tears down ‘significantly sized’ homeless camp under bridge

Many residents had made complaints about the camp before it was torn down

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

Premier John Horgan receives a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the pharmacy in James Bay Thrifty’s Foods in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. Premier John Horgan gets AstraZeneca shot, encourages others

27% of residents in B.C. have now been vaccinated against COVID-19

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Most Read