A sweet hello, after a long goodbye

Two young girls who wanted to step into one another’s shoes recently stepped in one another’s arms.

The reunion was as sweet as April sunshine.

How they reconnected is a delightful tale.

We’ll begin the story in Oregon logging camps in the late 1920s. Two families followed work from town to town. Dolores Zonich Osborne was an only child. Her father hauled trees to the railroad yard. Norma Olson Ingram lived with a half-dozen siblings. Ingram’s father was a filer at the camps.

"She was my best friend," said Osborne, 73. "Our families visited back and forth."

The shy Osborne remembers the sting of prejudice. Her Yugoslavian name was not as American as apple pie. She adored the bustling, accepting home of her best friend.

"We would play on a big hill behind her house that was filled with pine trees," Osborne said. "We sat above the house on a huge offshoot."

Older children tugged little ones up to perch on the massive branch.

Both families eventually settled near Klamath Falls, Ore. When Osborne was 12, her father moved the family to the Yakima area, where they leased a small farm.

"When I said goodbye to Norma," Osborne said, "I thought I would move back."

Tragedy struck. Her father died two months after they moved to the farm. When his heart exploded, his only daughter ran to fetch a doctor. She pedaled a bicycle with all her might down a long lane, then a neighbor took her to a country store with a phone.

Her father was dead when the doctor arrived.

"Life changed for mother and me," Osborne said. "We were strangers in the community."

Her mother worked in a fruit warehouse. Osborne retreated into her solitary world.

"I kept thinking about Norma," Osborne said. "I thought about crossing the big river to see her."

Let’s hurry through gloomy years of poverty. Osborne found no friends at school. She volunteered to shave men’s beards at a nursing home and used rollers to give elderly women curls.

Life turned to brighter colors when she married. Her husband, Nolan, served in Korea. Osborne and her mother traveled through Klamath Falls in 1951 to pick up the soldier. On their way, they stopped at the Olson home.

Osborne got her best friend’s address, but lost it in the rush to pick up her husband.

Her family moved to Monroe in 1972. Her son and daughter still live in the area. The widowed Osborne lost her beloved mother more than a year ago.

She never forgot her best friend. She made calls to Oregon, to no avail. The gifted painter spent time at her easel, read and sewed.

"I kind of gave up," Osborne said. "I thought maybe I would search again in the spring. I thought maybe the next year I would just get in the car and go to Klamath Falls."

None of that was necessary. She asked her son, an Internet buff, if he would find her friend.

Her son called in just a few days.

"Get a pen," he said. "I’ve got Norma’s number."

At that point, Osborne used both hands to grab the sides of her head as if she were wearing a hat in the wind.

"I still get chills," she said.

Soon she heard her best friend’s soft voice on the other end of the phone.

"I said, ‘This is Dolores Zonich Osborne,’" Osborne said.

"Oh my goodness," Ingram replied.

Osborne was delighted recently to take a trip to Ingram’s home in Nevada. Years melted away as the pair reconnected. They keep in touch by phone and the Ingrams want Osborne to pay another visit.

The pair discovered a wonderful memory. Osborne always thought her friend’s home was rich with family. Ingram noticed Osborne’s mother’s rayon stockings and thought that family was rich.

Sixty years later, they know friendship made them wealthy.

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