Linda Smith of Farmington looks over a letter from her pen pal, Celia Harding of England. The two have been corresponding for more than 60 years. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

FARMINGTON — They’ve never met, and they’ve only talked on the phone once, but Linda Smith and Celia Harding have been pen pals for more than 60 years.

Smith is in Farmington; Harding in Essex County, England.

“I think we’re a lot alike; that’s why we’ve stayed together so long,” Smith said. “It’s neat. I’ve just loved it.”

Smith’s Scout leaders were instrumental in setting up their long-distance relationship.

“She’s a couple years older than me, not much more than that,” Smith said. “She’s the one constant in my life. We’ve never missed a birthday or Christmas.”

Smith started writing Harding at about age 15 and has the first letter she received. They exchange letters three times a year, birthday cards and “always Christmas presents, which you have to mail in November to get there,” Smith said.

Celia Harding of England stands with her oldest son, Peter. Harding has been pen pals with Linda Smith of Farmington for more than 60 years. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

Harding is married and has two boys, as does Smith. The two pals also babysat, watched “The Big Bang Theory” and other television programs and, when younger, compared music and movies.

“She had a dog, I think we’re a lot alike in that respect,” Smith said.

Harding’s husband, Robin, wrote a book and sent the manuscript to Smith, who also has the Hardings’ wedding picture.

“It’s been quite an experience,” Smith said. “I’ve had an inside look at all the (royal) marriages, The Beatles. When we first started, she sent me an autographed picture of The Beatles. I thought that was nice. I’ve still got that.”

Celia Harding of England sent her pen pal Linda Smith of Farmington an autographed picture of The Beatles soon after they started their long-distance correspondence more than 60 years ago. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

Smith said she’s received lots of postcards, many with pictures of castles which she loves, and tea towels featuring castles. Other mementos are steam engines, a tea towel featuring the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, key rings and chocolate.

“I’ve got quite a stack of them; I love them,” she said.

“Over the years we’ve done mittens and socks, scarves, something you can put in an envelope,” Smith said.

She said she wishes more youth would become pen pals.

“I’ve learned so much, just about people in general,” she said.

Smith said she isn’t sure if Harding has access to computers.

“I’ve thought many times that would be a good way to connect,” she said.

“I wish I could talk to her, I would love to see her,” she said.

“It’s strange to say that you love somebody that you’ve never seen,” Smith noted. “She calls me her special friend. It’s just been so neat. I hope it never ends.”

A letter to Linda Smith of Farmington from her pen pal, Celia Harding of England, mentions the COVID-19 pandemic. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser


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