Latter-day Saint Life

Kelly Clarkson Show celebrates Latter-day Saint and her pen pal of 47 years

When Latter-day Saint London Litchfield was in fifth grade in the small town of Denham Springs, Louisiana, she was given a school assignment to write to a mystery pen pal in another state. Her handwritten letter ended up in the hands of another fifth-grader, Kathy Ackerman, who was living in another small town: Grangeville, Idaho. That first letter was sent and replied to in 1975—47 years ago. What began with two tweens picking out fun stationery, writing funny notes and scribbles on the back of envelopes, and using cute catchphrases like SWALCAKWS (“Sealed with a lick ’cause a kiss won’t stick”) grew into a treasured, lifelong friendship. These two girls grew up together—albeit over 2,000 miles apart—and have exchanged hundreds of letters over the years.

The two women only ever met in person three times over the course of their friendship—once as 16-year-olds, once as young mothers, and then again as grandmothers last October. But singer and talk show host Kelly Clarkson brought the two together for a fourth time on a “Best Friends” episode of her TV show on Wednesday.

“A connection made through handwritten letters is unique and special,” Kathy said. “I don't have that with any other person. ... Our world [today] is so fast-paced that most people prefer texting or emailing, .... but a letter with a stamp delivered to your mailbox is a special thrill. Since London and I have always been miles apart, we used the only means we had to get to know each other, and it was [and still] is powerful.”

On the episode, London called their long-distance friendship “a very slow, very patient conversation,” but one in which they’ve truly gotten to know each other, find commonalities, and share personal stories.

As the two women have written back and forth to each other over the decades, they have shared stories from high school, college, their dating days, marriage, raising children, and now enjoying grandchildren. Early on in their friendship, the two also shared similar experiences growing up in small towns. London said that the first time they met in person as teenagers, “[Kathy] was über impressed when my sister and I picked her up from the airport [in Louisiana], and we said, ‘We just got a McDonald’s—do you want to go?!’ She was super psyched because she had to travel more than an hour from her hometown [in Idaho] to go to McDonald’s.”

Kathy said that meeting London in person for the first time was one of the most memorable parts of their friendship for her. “Her family was so wonderfully gracious and kind to me. I think that experience made it real for both of us.”

You can watch the entire clip from Wednesday’s episode in the player below.

At the end of the episode, Kelly announced that the friends would each receive $5,000 to plan their ultimate girls’ trip, but that trip may have to wait for a few years: London and her husband, Wade, are leaving in July to serve as mission leaders in Côte d’Ivoire. In a separate Facebook post, Kathy wrote about their experience on the show: “I think both of us agree the very best part of this was getting to see each other again briefly before she leaves ... and under such unique circumstances! That’s a gift I’ll always treasure.”

“[Kathy] is loyal and the kind of friend I would seek anyway,” London commented. “It just happened that we met in an unconventional way. She is smart, funny, talented, and an excellent, descriptive, entertaining writer. We will always keep in touch. Moving to Côte d’Ivoire will be just another chapter in our letter-writing story.”

▶ You may also like: Watch: Drew Barrymore praises NYC Giving Machines on her TV show, plans to visit them herself

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