By Joseph Pratt
Thirty years later, after finishing higher education, starting a family, building a foundation for his career, an election win and a life full of events, Domestic Relations Judge Jerry Buckler received a message on the social media network Facebook from a lady by the name Ellen Gibson. After an initial discussion and a quick profile check, Buckler realized Ellen Gibson is Ellen Pringle, his long lost high school pen-pal, who is of Scottish nationality.
It was 1979 when Buckler was in the eighth grade and received Gibson as a pen-pal, or pen-friend, as Gibson puts it, from teacher Mary Gibson. The two became very close, writing monthly for most of Buckler’s time in high school, until the contact got less and less as the two got older and busier. Eventually, the two stopped talking all together. Buckler even remembers sending each other gifts.
“I recall Ellen sending me things such as stamps that marked the engagement of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. I still have these stamps at my mom and dad’s house,” Buckler said.
Buckler was in shock that the two had found each other again, after years of silence. Buckler and Gibson introduced each other to their spouses and began talking again, which they claim started exactly where they left off, like nothing ever happened.
“I didn’t know who this was and I didn’t recognize the name. Lo and behold, my pen-pal from approximately 30 years ago had found me. Because of Facebook, we started reconnecting. Of course we exchanged pictures and messages—it was great. It was like a long lost reunion,” Buckler said.
While Buckler was discussing travel plans to Florida a few years back, Gibson told him that her family had also booked a vacation to Florida. It turned out that the dates fell together and the two would only be 6 hours apart from each other. They both agreed to meet each other halfway and finally met for the first time, although they were lifelong friends.
“Our first meeting was great. We all immediately knew who each other was. When Lisa and I pulled in to this small restaurant in this little Florida town, we saw Ellen and Glenn (Ellen’s husband) standing outside waiting on us. Truly, it was like we knew each other for the longest time,” Buckler said. “We had lunch and talked and talked and talked. In fact, the restaurant was closing early in the day and we kind of kept them open later than their normal. The waitress was so interested in our story that she gladly allowed us to keep talking.”
Buckler describes the meeting as a reunion, and one that he found it was very hard to leave from. The two families have since spent even more time getting to know the other.
Buckler finds it strange that the two have so much in common. Such as his son being the age of Gibson’s daughter and Gibson’s son is the age of Buckler’s daughter. Both have been married for 26 years. Gibson’s work is very similar to Lisa’s, Buckler’s wife, line of work. The families also both live in river cities and have worked in the same line of work for 30 years. Buckler stated that some of the similarities are very paralleling to each other and he finds them very entertaining.
Buckler also finds the dissimilarities between their cultures interesting as well. He is intrigued by their health care system and education system, which is free. He also finds it funny that colleges and universities in Scotland are completely different from what they are in America.
“When I told Ellen I went to Rio Grande College before law school, she thought that I did poorly in school because I had to go to a college,” Buckler laughed. “It is funny how college to them is more of a technical school for students who do not score well enough to get into a university.”
Facebook hasn’t only brought Buckler and Gibson together, but the members of both families. Buckler said he is glad that his wife has become such close friends with his pen-pal and says they even talk more than he gets to. Their children have also started contact as well, but tend to use Twitter.
Recently, Gibson and her daughter planned a trip to the United States, where they would be visiting New York City. Lisa Buckler, Jerry’s wife, worked with his receptionist behind his back to ensure he would have an open weekend available and surprised him with a visit from his pen-pal.
Gibson and her daughter only got to spend two days in the area, but got to see Buckler’s walk of life with her own eyes for the first time. The visit was the first real time the families got to spend together, other than the few hours at the Florida café from years ago.
The Gibson family got a tour of Scioto County, a look at the Courthouse, ate at the Brew Pub and Buffalo Wild Wings and even visited Buckler’s parents.
“Ellen really enjoyed visiting with my “mum and dad” as, of course, this was the address she always sent her correspondences,” Buckler explained. “My mom got very emotional when Ellen and Emily left. Again, it seemed as if we had grown up together and had known each other forever. And Ellen and Emily seemed to love the quiet of Scioto County, as they had been visiting New York City the several days prior to visiting Scioto County.”
Buckler says that he and his family are currently planning a trip to Scotland, so that they could visit with their Scottish sister family and see how they live their life.
“I hope Jerry, Lisa, Adam and Adrienne come over and visit us one day; we would love to show them our beautiful country,” Gibson wrote. “We love the United States and my daughter is returning in August 2014, travelling to Atlanta and driving down to Florida. I am sure we will stay in touch with Jerry and his family. Already, Emily and Adam have struck up a friendship and they ‘speak’ to each other regularly through Twitter and Whats App. Maybe they will be modern ‘pen-friends’…cyber friends.”
Joseph Pratt can be reached at the Portsmouth Daily Times 740-353-3101, EXT 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.