Patricia Kan and Arthur Sugden meet for the first time after being pen pals on the internet for 10 years.
Patricia Kan and Arthur Sugden meet for the first time after being pen pals on the internet for 10 years. Chrissy Harris

Pen pals meet for first time

IMAGINE living kilometres away from somebody you regard as a friend for many years and never actually meeting them face-to-face.

This is the story of two well-known Gladstone region people, who, for the first time this week, met face-to-face after being chums for a decade.

Current president of the Gladstone Bowls Club, Arthur Sugden, was diagnosed with terminal oesophageal cancer in mid-August.

His story is already heart-breaking with the fact he will celebrate his 85th birthday today and when speaking with The Observer yesterday, he was anxiously awaiting the arrival of his daughter, Susan, who had flown from Adelaide for the occasion, only to be stuck at Rockhampton airport.

While Gladstone was gloomy due to overcast conditions and wet weather on Monday, Mr Sugden’s world lit up when Patricia Kan arrived.

The pair had become friends more than 10 years ago when she produced a newsletter for the 1770 bowling community, which Mr Sugden then used in his weekly bowls page, Around the Greens, in The Observer.

They struck up a great friendship, which survived via emails and telephone calls over the years.

“She was one of the forerunners starting ladies bowls,” Mr Sugden said.

“We also found out her birthday was the day before my wife’s (Jean) birthday.

“We’d send each other those silly joke emails,” he scoffed.

Ms Kan, a former Miriam Vale Shire councillor who used to write the shire news for The Observer, moved to Ashby, New South Wales, with her husband in 2003.

“People wouldn’t believe that I had a friendship with a man I’d never met,” she said.

Ms Kan said she made the decision to do the drive on Saturday night and arrived in Woodgate Sunday before heading to Gladstone.

She said Mr Sugden telephoned her last week and told her he wasn’t afraid of dying, but did have one regret – never meeting her.

“It was the most amazing experience of my life,” she said.

“I walked in that door and we were like we were old friends. He got out of his chair and tottled over and we hugged.”

Mr Sugden said he was very flattered someone had driven for days to meet and say hello.

“Firstly, she didn’t know if she would stay 30 minutes or five minutes,” he said.

However, the pair clicked straight away and chatted away for three-and-a-half hours.

“Now I have a regret. That I left it so long to meet him,” Ms Kan said. “He’s the most interesting, fascinating man.

“When I left him, I couldn’t turn around to wave him goodbye because I was crying.”

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