Letter sparks friendship

Family Living Editor

Register/Jenelle Johnson
Colleen (Jefferis) Bagnall, seated, and her daughter, Angela (Bagnall) Petty looked at photos and a recent letter from Bagnall’s pen pal, Robert Allen, who lives in North Hampton, England.

When Colleen (Jefferis) Bagnall was in third grade in Moran she was assigned a pen pal project. Her assignment turned into a 43-year friendship for the Iola resident.
“I remember my teacher Mrs. Lamb had a book from Modern Woodmen with names of kids from other countries. I chose Robert Allen who lived in England,” she said.
The two began corresponding when she was 8 and he was 14 and have written and received letters, audio tapes and photographs from each other monthly throughout the years.
The two friends’ lives have paralleled on many occasions.
Bagnall, 51, and her late husband David and Allen and his wife Barbara were both married in 1976. Bagnall has two daughters, Melissa and Angela. The Allens have a daughter Deborah, and had another daughter, Sarah, who died from sudden infant death syndrome. Both families recently welcomed granddaughters.
Allen and his family traveled to the United States in 1987 to visit Bagnall and her family, who were working and living in Branson, Mo.
Allen, an accountant who lives a quiet life in North Hampton, was quite taken with Silver Dollar City and its country music shows, Bagnall said.
“It tickled Robert when I told him Pam Tillis came to my yard sale and bought some curtains for her cabin. The funny part was she asked me if I’d take her check,” Bagnall said. “Maybe I should have kept the check and framed it.”
A few years later Allen and his family returned for a second visit. On this trip he brought a special blend of tea so the Bagnalls could experience an afternoon tea service with his family. Allen gave the tea tray, complete with British Union Jack design, to Bagnall as a gift.
Bagnall said she has received numerous T-shirts from the Allens as they traveled around the world. She, in turn, sends them magnets from around the United States to add to their collection.
“I would love to travel to England to see my friends, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. For now, I’ll visit them through our letters,” Bagnall said.