April 26, 2006
Half A Century Later, North Fork Friends Reunite
When Louise Wilkinson and Theresa Ackley were little girls growing up in Southold, they spent idyllic childhood days riding bikes and sharing adventures, trading dreams and talking endlessly, as only best friends can do.
|Independent / Courtesy Theresa Ackley
After almost 50 years, best friends share photographs and memories. (click for larger version)|
|Independent / Courtesy Louise Wilkinson
Louise Wilkinson and Theresa Burns were childhood best friends. (click for larger version)|
It was a friendship forged when both were young enough to believe in "forever" and that sun-kissed summer days could never end. The passage of seasons would only cement their sisterhood.
But little girl dreams can shatter. Eventually, Theresa's family moved away and, in time, the two lost contact. It was only when Louise saw her former best friend's name on Classmates.com and reached out across a lifetime that the pair reconnected.
Last weekend, Louise and Theresa were reunited in Orlando for the first time in almost 50 years.
But, despite decades of silence, the two were able to pick up the conversation as though they'd only left off a moment before, sharing photographs and memories and the encompassing warmth of a friendship that has survived the test of time.
"Our parents were friends forever," said Louise, who lives in Riverhead today and works for the Peconic Community Council. "We lived in the same neighborhood on Bay View Road."
"Tessie," as Louise affectionately calls her, had four brothers, and both sets of parents were very involved with Boy Scouts: "Although I was an only child, my father had been a senior Scout, so they helped out at many of the events, parades, and jamborees."
Theresa said, "Louise and I spent a lot of time together at her house. It was better than mine because we didn't have boys bugging us."
Although Theresa admitted she was nervous about meeting Louise again, moments after the pair met with their husbands in Orlando, the worries dissipated. "It was so great to meet with Louise after all this time," she said. "We talked about how it used to be such a big deal to us, as kids, going to Riverhead — it seemed like such a big city. And now, here we are today, meeting in Orlando, a much bigger city, for sure."
Louise recalled how their friendship faced its first challenge when Theresa moved away in 1961. "Their family's dream was to move upstate," said Louise.
Miles may have separated them, but there is a link between the two that neither time nor geography can sever. "Because of the way we were brought up, our values are the same. You can't change that, whether you're 14 or 500," said Louise.
Both agreed that they would never let 50 years pass without contact again. "We will definitely have to make the effort to stay in touch," said Theresa. "Without a doubt."