This is a story about two little girls who met on the way to kindergarten in Indianapolis in 1932.
Eighty-three years later, Lois Scheffe of Seymour and Beth Madinger of Honolulu, share a friendship that has stood the test of time.
“It’s a rare and beautiful thing,” Scheffe said of the relationship.
Growing up during the Great Depression, the two were as close as sisters. Beth was just 11 days older than Lois.
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“I was as welcome in Beth’s home as I was in my own,” Scheffe said. “We were both only children, so it was natural that we developed a sisterhood.”
Having Social Security numbers just one number apart was another sign they were meant to be lifelong friends, Scheffe said.
Because times were hard back then, the two had to come up with creative and cheap ways to have fun.
On Saturday afternoons, they would spend 10 cents at the local movie theater to watch a matinee.
“We never grew wise to the fact that the hero would always escape his dire circumstances, so he could return the following Saturday,” Scheffe said.
Besides movies, the pair also shared a love of animals and each had several pets including two ducks that followed them everywhere, a German shepherd and a bulldog.
A pet turtle named Oswald that they owned together completed the menagerie, Scheffe said.
One year, in the late fall, Oswald took a turn for the worst and then died, Scheffe said, or so the girls thought.
“He hadn’t moved in days, so obviously he was dead,” she said. “We buried him with the proper rites and in the spring, being curious as to what shape he was in, dug him up.”
To their surprise, Oswald was moving and walked away from the near-death experience.
“We knew nothing about hibernation and considered his revival no less than a miracle,” Scheffe said.
The girls remained friends through their teenage years. In their 20s, they both met and married their husbands, who served in the military. Charles “Charley” Scheffe served as a pilot in the U.S. Navy and Frank Madinger served in the U.S. Army Air Corps.
Being married to best friends, Charley Scheffe and Frank Madinger had no other option than to become friends too, Lois Scheffe said.
After marriage came children with Beth Madinger giving birth to a son and then a daughter and Lois Scheffe having two girls.
“Now our children and grandchildren are friends and my two great-grandsons became acquainted with the clan this past summer,” Lois Scheffe said.
In the early 60s, both families moved away from Indianapolis. The Madingers moved to New York and then Honolulu, where Beth Madinger resides today.
The Scheffes moved to Minneapolis and later to Seymour, where Lois Scheffe still lives.
To stay in touch, the two women would write letters to each other.
“With so many miles separating us, the letters flew back and forth, and we were always planning our next reunion,” Lois Scheffe said.
Over the years, the Scheffes spent many vacations in Hawaii, enjoying the Madingers hospitality and company and getting to explore a tropical paradise.
“There we enjoyed experiences not available on the mainland,” Lois Scheffe said.
After their husbands passed away, Charley Scheffe in 1991 and Frank Madinger in 1997, the two widows continued to spend time with each other every year, planning vacations to new and exotic locales.
“We tried to visit as many states as possible. We also vacationed in New Zealand, Switzerland, England and Canada, and we cruised Alaska and around the Hawaiian Islands,” Lois Scheffe said.
She now spends part of the winter in Hawaii with her best friend but said this year most likely will be her last because of their age and the exertion of traveling overseas.
“I know a friendship of this length is unusual,” Lois Scheffe said. “It is my wish that people who read this nurture their friendships for it’s through these efforts that memories become treasures throughout one’s lifetime.”