More Best of Friends

History, Hometown Heroes, People, Traditions
on February 18, 2011

While American Profile could not fit all of our readers' stories of lifelong friendship into our printed magazine, here are more of our favorites:

Word of honor
As teenagers, Christine Schuster and Diane Scagbiola made a pact. If what they were saying to each other was "the God's honest truth," no matter how seemingly outrageous, they said, "word of honor!"

"I bet over the years, we've said 'word of honor!' a million times," says Christine, of Mesa, Ariz.

They met as second-graders in 1965 when Diane, who was from New York City, spent weekends and summers at her aunt's home, right next to the dairy farm operated by Christine's family in upstate New York. Theirs was a childhood filled with farm chores, hay forts and bicycle rides, and they even shared a pet chicken named Charlie.

No surprise, then, that Diane left city life as an adult to settle on a farm, where she raised three sons while Christine raised two daughters in Arizona. Despite the distance, they took family vacations together and visit each other as much as possible.

Today, their children are grown and the women talk on the phone regularly because "we never run out of things to talk about." After 46 years, Christine says their friendship is special because they know each other so well. "It's the best friendship a friendship can be," she says.

"Word of honor!"

Eyes and ears
Fifth grade turned out to be a pivotal year for Margie Braselton.

In her class was Jean McDonald, who would become her best friend of 73 years. Beyond that, two other classmates eventually would become their husbands. All four graduated from high school together in 1944 in Monroe, Ga., and they went on to raise families and take family vacations together for many years.

"Our husbands kept us on our toes. They both loved to tease us as well as each other," Margie says.

In 2008 and 2009, after almost 60 years of marriage, the women became widows within eight months of each other.

"There are two empty spots now, but we have been a great comfort to one another. Her eyesight is poor as is my hearing, so I am her eyes and she is my ears," says Margie, 83, of Winder, Ga., noting that Jean, 82, lives only 17 miles away.

"We feel that we have lived in the best of times—some hard, but the good has by far outweighed the bad," she says.

Breakfast on Wednesdays
Every Wednesday for 20 years, Jerry Hinderholtz has met with his two best friends for breakfast at the River Run Family Restaurant in Racine, Wis., where he never lacks for topics to talk about and memories to share with Maynard Poulsen and Einer Lee.

Friends for 75 years, the men attended public school, Sunday school confirmation and even some college classes together while growing up. Before they turned 18, each joined the U.S. Navy to serve during World War II, and all three were discharged about the same time, meeting in 1946 for a vacation at Wisconsin's Devils Lake State Park. Each year since, the trio has made a pilgrimage to hike the lake's bluffs.

The friends always have had a lot in common. "We married and each of us have one boy and two girls. We are each widowed," Jerry says.

Now 84 and retired from their jobs in construction, insurance and education, another thing they share are bacon, eggs and pancakes every Wednesday morning. "We tell the same stories and lies, but we don't complain and only interrupt to make a correction," Jerry says.

Supper club
Jean Pietrantonio, 44, is blessed with a wonderful husband, children, parents, a sister and countless other special people. But one evening a month, she puts everyone else on hold and goes to "supper club" with her four best friends since junior high school in Warwick, R.I.

For the last decade, supper club has been a standing reservation for Jean, Paulette Larocque, Robert Cribari, Julie Cataloni and Kellie Mungo. The friends alternate dinner at each other's homes to reminisce, laugh, visit and, of course, eat. After all, it's a supper club!

They have so much fun that her family members and other friends occasionally ask—half jokingly—to join the club, but Jean always replies, "Sorry, but no."

"This time together is sacred to us," she says. "I can honestly say I would not be complete without these four individuals."

Bridging generations
For Joy Vanneste, 55, of Shelby Township, Mich., the youthful zest of best friend Rachel Krauth, 33, of Greenville, Ohio, brings out the child in her. For Rachel, the connection she feels with Joy transcends the generation that separates them.

When a mutual friend introduced them in 2007, "we instantly clicked," Rachel recalls. "There was an immediate connection."

Rachel loves Joy's positive spirit and love of life, while Joy admires Rachel's honesty and her wisdom beyond her years. "We help one another see things from different perspectives and appreciate each other's opinion," Rachel says.

Not to mention how they make each other laugh—a lot. "I have never laughed more," says Joy of their road trips, campouts and talking by phone nearly every day.

"She totally gets me," Rachel says. "Sometimes I don't even have to explain how I feel; she just knows and understands."

"Rachel has shown me how not to be dogmatic and to look at younger people with respect and acknowledge their point of view," says Joy, who was 22 when Rachel was born. "She has even been able to get me to listen to country music!"

Still swell
When Freda Weegar became friends with Marjorie Williams during junior high school in Columbus, Kan., they thought each other was swell—and have entries in their diaries to prove it:

"My best friend is Freda," Marjorie wrote in her diary in 1939. "She's a swell girl and a lot of fun. We tell each other everything."

Freda's entry for that same year was similar. "Marjorie and I are swell friends. She comes to my house or I go to her house all the time."

As Freda explains it: "Swell was a much-overused word for anything good or wonderful in those days."

Now both 86, with Freda living in Laguna Niguel, Calif., and Marjorie still in Columbus, they still tell each other everything. And they both agree that their best friend truly is swell.

Beyond friends
Agnes Gilman Case, of Denton, Md., met her best friend at age 15 at a local swimming hole and married him in 1970.

"He knows me better than I know myself, and he loves me above all things and all people," she says about Paul A. Case. "When I'm excited about something, I can hardly wait to tell him about it. When I crash and burn, he is there to pick up the pieces. When I am sad or hurt, he knows just what to do. My best friend has stayed with me through all the ups and downs of life: through raising two kids, and through building a career. And I'm sure that there are times when I have been a challenge. He's never said I told you so or been judgmental, and he has always been there to support me."

Sister friend
Whenever schoolteachers asked Shannon Frogge to write about her best friend, the youngster usually turned in a paper about her dog, Pepper. All that changed, however, when Shannon was nearly 9 and her sister Jaime was born in Portland, Ind.

"I remember the day my parents brought her home vividly," says Shannon, of Heber City, Utah. "I was scare to death to hold her because I was afraid I'd hurt her. However, once I held her, the bond was bound between our hearts."

Shannon, now 43, says Jaime Wagner, 34, of Portland, Ind., is not only a sister by blood, but a best friend by choice. "My husband says we are not normal [sisters] in that we have never ever fought, not even as young kids," Shannon says. "He meant that as a compliment, of course."

Shannon has the same hopes for her own two daughters, ages 6 and 2. "When my second daughter was born, I instantly had an overwhelming feeling that my girls would always be all right because they had a sister like me."

Sisters by heart
As seventh-graders, common ground brought Loretta Brandon and Nancy Distefano together. Both were only children, left-handed, avid readers and good students who lived six houses apart in Erie, Pa. Now, at age 60, they sometimes wonder how they could be lifelong friends.

"I am a liberal Episcopalian; Nancy's a fundamental Presbyterian. I am solidly Democrat; she is solidly Republican. Socially, she is conservative, I am not," writes Loretta, of Statesboro, Ga., about Nancy, who lives in Boca Raton, Fla. "In the end, what matters to us is the fact that we have been together for so many years. We are sisters in our hearts. Her children call me Aunt Lori, and she is Aunt Nancy. We've shared good times and heartache. We've been part of each other's immediate and extended families, and we've grown up to be women we can admire."

Deep appreciation
When Nancy Splane met Frances Knobel in 1967 at the University of Florida, she thought Frances was the most sophisticated, poised person she'd ever met. Meanwhile, Frances was impressed with Nancy's cool demeanor and slight aloofness.

Turns out that both college freshmen were craving a friend who could see behind their façade, and appreciate them for whom they truly are.

"We have loved each other since we met, a mystery and a miracle," says Nancy, 62, of Jacksonville, Fla., who says that, while she and Frances are different in many ways and took different paths in life, they both are book nerds who are "curious about everything."

"But those descriptions would never explain why we love each other so deeply," Nancy says of Frances, who now lives in Sherman, Conn. Theirs is a friendship built on authenticity and respect.

"It is a rare and precious gift that doesn't call for explanation, only gratitude," she says.

Beyond fences
Richard Hyatt and Rod Smith started their friendship at age 3 in Frederick, Md., where their backyards abutted one other. Rod's parents cut a hole in the wooden fence so the boys could talk and play together.

"Both of us have no siblings, thus we think of ourselves as brothers," says Rod, now 76 and living in El Cajon, Calif.

As they grew into young men, Richard and Rod worked summer jobs as bricklayer helpers and went to separate colleges. They were commissioned as second lieutenants in the U.S. Marine Corps, stood up for each other at their weddings and became godfather to each other's children.

Today, instead of a backyard fence, more than 2,000 miles separate them and their homes in California and Massachusetts. But they don't view the distance—or their opposite interests—as an insurmountable hurdle to their friendship. They swap e-mails weekly and visit each other annually.

"He is an accomplished flutist and a poet, while I am pretty much an outdoor person with hunting and fishing as priorities," Rod says. "I think because we are so different is the reason we have stuck together all these years."

Happy trails
Darla Burris and Kathy Dixon became instant friends in 1952 when they met in the second grade at Greenbower School in Limaville, Ohio.

They dreamed of owning a horse but settled for bicycles on which they pedaled down dusty dirt roads to watch horses graze in fields near their homes.

At age 12, the girls biked to a riding stable after plotting to turn all the horses loose "so they could run free like wild mustangs." But inside the barn, the girls got spooked and high-tailed it home. "I asked her once what kept us from turning the horses loose that day, and she said it was either God or the wrath of our mothers if we got caught," Darla jokes.

As cheerleaders in junior high, Kathy was the captain and Darla was the klutz. "She was the only cheerleader on our squad who could do a full split, and I was jealously proud of her," Darla says.

Today, both 65 and living in Alliance, Ohio, the women get together weekly to eat breakfast, play guitars, help each other with projects, and occasionally to ride Darla's two old horses, Cocoa and Casey. "Some dreams do come true," Darla says.

True reward
When they were 8 years old, Valerie Berie received a stuffed bunny and Leisha Kozenewski took home a stuffed duck as a reward for modeling children's clothing at a party where they met for the first time.

But the best reward was their new friendship that deepened over Barbie dolls, sleepovers and hours of talking on the telephone. During junior high, they listened to records, read Tiger Beat magazine and swooned over teen singing idol Shaun Cassidy. High school life in Ilion, N.Y., included pizza and parties and, at graduation, they laughed when they realized they'd bought the same dress for the occasion.

After going separate ways for six years, Valerie and Leisha found themselves back in Ilion and working for the same nearby insurance company. "It was like we were never apart," the women write in a friendship letter they penned together.

Now 45, they cherish each other's support—when their mothers died, when Leisha went through a divorce, and when Valerie's husband was killed in a car wreck while she was pregnant with her second child. Later, "we stood up for each other when we both remarried"—Valerie to Bob and Leisha to Ted, the same guy whom Valerie had tried to fix up Leisha with years earlier.

"So here we are, 38 years later, through all the rough times and all the happy times. We still work together for the same company, live in the same town, and our sons have formed a best-friend bond as well," they say of Kyle and Colin, both 16. "Not a day goes by that we don't talk to each other. We plan our vacations together, share lots of retail therapy together and continue to be best friends."

And on their desks at work, Valerie keeps a stuffed bunny and Leisha a stuffed duck—to remind them of the best reward of all.

Always together
Growing up in Bluff Dale, Texas, Cathey Hartmann and Mosetta McInnis were known to everyone as "the twins"—not because they looked alike, but because they always were together.

"I can't ever remember when we were not best friends because we've known each other from the crib!" writes Cathey, noting that their parents also were friends.

"These were the days of party lines, so the many hours we talked on the phone usually were interrupted by someone wanting to use the phone, or the husband of the phone operator giving us a hard time," says Cathey, 68.

Even when Mosetta moved to a nearby town after her dad died of cancer at age 12, the girls remained close. "I was the first to get my driver's license, and we thought we had died and gone to heaven!" says Cathey, recalling how they hid their girlfriends in the trunk of her car before driving into the local drive-in movie theater.

"We were in each other's weddings, of course," and Cathey brought her husband and daughter frequently to visit Mosetta in Pogasa Springs, Colo.

When Cathey's husband died of cardiac arrest in 1995, Mosetta dropped everything to stay with her. "I remember her following me around with a glass of water because medication I was taking for stress was causing my mouth to be dry. I was trying to arrange details, visit those who were coming by, and finding it difficult to talk, so she stayed at my elbow trying to make me more comfortable," says Cathey, who since has remarried.

"(Mosetta) has just always been there, and although I have made many friends, I have always referred to her as my best friend."

From friend to family
When Betty Doty became friends with Ruth Smith 75 years ago at age 10, she did not know that her friend would become her sister-in-law.

"Ruth had a brother named David who loved to tease us," recalls Betty, of Wooster, Ohio, who ended up marrying David after he returned from military service during World War II. Ruth, of course, was her maid of honor and, if Betty had had her way, would have accompanied the couple on their honeymoon. "He declined," she says of David's response to her sincere suggestion.

While both of the women's husbands since have died and Ruth has moved to Clearwater, Fla., to be near her children, they remain close. "We talk every week and we get together twice a year," Betty says.

Magical memories
When Gloria DeMent and Marilyn Knowlden get together, they're able to talk about memories dating to the 1930s, including acting and dancing in a number of movies starring Shirley Temple, Bette Davis and James Cagney, and going on to graduate from Beverly Hills (Calif.) High School in 1943. A high school reunion in the mid-1990s brought them together again, and they picked up right where they left off.

"It is comforting and I think healing to be with old friends despite long absences," writes Gloria, of Escondido, Calif. "There's something quite magical about that."

Mutt and Jeff
"It seems like only yesterday we were skipping to school side by side," remembers Bev Kondas, of Osprey, Fla., of growing up with best friend Jackie Pennington. The girls were known as Mutt and Jeff in their neighborhood because Jackie was petite and bubbly, while Bev was "the tall, lanky, peculiar one."

While they lived across the street from one another, their lifestyles were worlds apart. "She was the baby daughter, and I was the oldest of four," recalls Bev, who cared for her three younger brothers while both parents worked. "I so envied her pampered lifestyle. Jackie always envied my family because she felt alone quite a bit of the time, whereas we were a madhouse of activity."

More than five decades later, the tables have turned. Jackie, 57, has four daughters, 14 grandchildren and a household of hubbub in Dayton, Ohio, while Bev and her husband opted to live quietly without kids. "Even with her family keeping her so busy, she has never failed me," says Bev, 59, "even to the point of spreading my mother's ashes with me when my husband wasn't available. I love her dearly."

Soul sisters
"On a page of our high school yearbook, Glenda Kimbrel chose to autograph the sole of an old pair of sneakers," says Laurie Boone about best friend. "The picture says, 'We are soul sisters.' Indeed we have been; indeed, we are."

After more than a half century of friendship, Laurie gets a lump in her throat remembering how they camped in a backyard trailer as children in Oceanside, Calif., worked together on homecoming floats as teens and stood by each other "through the 1960s and the crazy college years."

"We have continued to grow closer and closer as the years have unfolded and our friendship has made us better wives, mothers and women," says Laurie, of Carlsbad, Calif., noting that they with their husbands continue to ride bikes, take spontaneous walks and travel together.

When Laurie's daughter got married in 2009, Glenda and several family members made all the wedding invitations, decorated 400 cupcakes with rosebuds and helped the florist hang a flower-laden arch. The arch toppled just before the ceremony, but Glenda and her family jumped into action, even climbing a ladder in front of the guests to reposition it.

"Glenda is one of the most fun-loving, dependable, reliable, faithful people I know," Laurie says. "The generosity of her giving overwhelms me and motivates me to be a better friend in return."

Six generations
Carol Sagaser and Cara Lynn Gosser are part of a family friendship that spans six generations.

Their great-grandparents farmed and befriended each other on neighboring land in McArthur, Calif., and Carol and Cara Lynn attended the same country schools as their parents. They rode the school bus together, participated in 4-H and attended the same church. Their daughters played together as toddlers, and now their grandchildren are getting to know each other as well.

A heritage of family friendship keeps them connected. "Cara Lynn and I have strong bonds of friendship that no matter how long between visits, we always start up right where we left off," says Carol, of El Dorado, Calif.

'Sisters' from God
Susan Bleecker and Frannie McMahon have not only been first cousins for the last 64 years, they've been best friends.

"Our mothers were sisters, and we literally came in the world together. Our moms shared a room at (the hospital) and had us 10 to 15 hours apart, depending on who is telling the story," says Susan, 64, who lives in Fleming Island, Fla. "We share everything with each other. I met my husband at her house. She was my maid of honor, and I was hers. We have the same weird sense of humor, and I know I can trust her with my life."

While the women live on opposite sides of the nation—Susan in Florida and Frannie in North Bend, Ore.—they remain close.

"I never had a sister, but God took care of that by giving me Frannie," Susan says.

Priorities and plans
Pam Brooks, of Gardner, Ill., says the key to sharing a 35-year friendship with Lori Bonarek, of Coal City, Ill., is always making time for each other—no matter how busy their lives have been. The payoff changes with each phase of life.

"When we were younger, we talked about our plans for the future; now we talk about our plans for retirement," says Pam, 45, who cherishes one of the friendship scrapbooks they made together when they turned 16. "Lori says when our husbands are gone, we will get a place together, somewhere sunny, and I will clean and you will cook. And we will live happily ever after—me and my best friend."