Nancy Woods, left, and Frode Pakusch Tur, of Oslo, Norway, have been pen pals for 50 years. (Jill McLaughlin Photo)
Nancy Woods was 13 and living in Santa Fe when she first decided she wanted to find a pen pal abroad. She looked up the Chamber of Commerce in Oslo, Norway, and found a few names.
At the same time, Norwegian Frode Pakusch Tur wanted to improve his English. While browsing through a magazine, he found Woods’ name.
The two began writing on postcards at first.
“We sent letters quite often back then,” Woods recalled. “Two to three every month.”
Fifty years later, the two retold the story of how their friendship began in 1963. Sitting next to each other Friday, they talked about their life experiences and the memories they continue to make today.
“It’s just been a nice journey,” Woods said.
The pen pals have kept in touch through every major twist and turn. At first, the letters gave them a way to learn about each other’s cultures.
“We talked about school and different things, and about how different the countries and the customs are,” Woods said.
The correspondence helped Tur at school, he said.
“I needed to practice my English,” he said. “I had some problems at school with English. It helped me to come over here.”
Six years later, he bravely made the trip to finally meet his friend.
In 1969, Tur first visited Santa Fe as a 20-year-old. Woods returned home to learn about his adventure flying from New York to Los Angeles, taking a bus through a snowstorm to the Grand Canyon and Albuquerque.
“I was a little scared about that,” Tur remembers. “It’s a huge continent with so many things to see.”
Tur was in Roswell with his wife, Anita, on his fifth trip to New Mexico this week. The couple has kept busy visiting Bottomless Lakes and other areas. In the past, they’ve visited Carlsbad Caverns, the UFO Museum, Ruidoso, Lincoln, White Sands, El Paso and tried salsa and chile.
During the first trip, Tur met Woods’ brother, who was 8 at the time. He met him again Wednesday. It was a big difference, Woods said.
“He’s gotten to know all our family,” Woods said.
In 1971, Tur visited Woods again just after she married her husband, Mike.
Tur named his daughter, Cindy, after Woods’ sister. Woods and her husband were invited to visit Oslo for Tur’s wedding but couldn’t make the trip. Tur and his wife both work in the health care field. His son now lives in Chicago. Their daughter works as a nurse.
But, even after 50 years, the pen pals are still finding out new things about each other.
“For a while, I had eight pen pals in Norway,” Woods recalled.
“I didn’t know that,” Tur said, smiling.
“The others quit writing,” Woods said. “Frode and I stuck with it.”
Tur talked about how important writing letters is today.
“I think it’s important that young people and people in general, send letters and not only use Facebook,” he said. “It’s much more personal. Handwritten letters mean much more than typing it on a PC.”
“You put more thought into it,” she said.