The 70-year correspondence between Bruce in New Orleans and Clements in Batley, England, started in 1953 in elementary school.
When Gloria Bruce sent a letter to a pen pal in England in Elementary school in the 1950s, she did not think it would be the beginning of a newfound friendship. Their 70-year correspondence started in 1953 in elementary school, Bruce in New Orleans and Clements in Batley, England. According to the Washington Post, Bruce's classmates had a British pen pal and her classmates wanted writing buddies of their own. Bruce decided to write a letter to a girl called Susan, but when she received a letter back, it was from Clements. "I got back a letter from Shirley, and I’m thinking, ‘What happened? I know I wrote to Susan’ and I found out that Shirley read the other letter and decided we had more in common, so we swapped letters,” Bruce said.
Bruce and Clements had a lot in common. Both enjoyed reading, collecting stamps and embroidery. Even their birthdays were ten days apart. As they grew older, their similarities deepened, and they found comfort in each other. “We used to go to the mailbox every day and look, do we have a letter, no not today we have to wait,” Bruce said. Both women had children and both of their first husbands died. With time, their means of communication evolved too. To exchange Christmas presents, Bruce would mail the packages in November. After years of communicating through letters and phone calls, the pair met in 1985 when Clements, a biochemist, was in New Orleans after a conference in California.
Bruce joked that the Clements had another motive to come to New Orleans. “She wanted some of our beignets, that’s what she wanted,” Bruce said, laughing. They spent a lot of time, visited the French Quarter and did a crawfish boil with Bruce’s family. “We were worried, would we like each other, what if we don’t like each other? but we got on like a house on fire,” the duo said. Ever since the first trip, they have traveled back and forth every few years to travel with each other's friends and families. “We have mental telepathy. It’s just brilliant. You just know she’s just wonderful. It’s difficult to explain, isn’t it,” Clements said.
The pair, both 81, tried to see each other whenever they could. Clements calls New Orleans her second home, with her favorite Orleanian tradition being Mardi Gras. To celebrate their 70th Friend-anniversary, the two women rode in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Metairie. “Oh, I think it’s a brilliant idea I can’t think of anything more appropriate now. I’ve been to Mardi Gras so many times,” Clements said. “I’ll be throwing cabbages now.” They call themselves sisters and “two peas in a pod.” Clements admires how Bruce worked in her husband’s hardware store, served as a Cub Scouts leader and raised children.
They support and love each other through thick and thin and will continue to do so. “She’s fun,” Bruce said. “What can I say?” Clements said that it is because of the strong bond that has enabled them to stay together for so long. “We’re just wonderful friends, and we love each other very much,” she said. “And we hope to be able to keep doing this for many years.”