Pen pals mark 71 years with Minnesota visit

It all started 71 years ago with a letter written in the darkness of World War II, by a girl in Great Britain to her new American pen pal.

Millie Rice was that American Girl and Franke Gentry, that Brit. They are now together in person for a 3-week visit in Millie’s St. Cloud home.

They sent everything: photographs, news clippings and even locks to compare their hair colors. It all made their way across the Atlantic.

“This is funny,” Millie said as she read the old letters. “‘We use electricity for our lights, radio, toaster and waffle irons, wash machine and so forth,’ as if she didn’t have electricity.

When Millie traveled to England in 1979 for their first face-to-face visit, people mistook them for sisters.

“We’re probably better than sisters In a way, because sisters fall out,” Franke said.

They still write, although now they just use email. Not much of a pen anymore, but still pals.