Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, March 31, 2002

Reunion evokes Main St., U.S.A.

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer

Marlys Werle stood by the window in Aloha Airlines' lounge at Honolulu Airport, eagerly awaiting Flight 063 from Kahului, Maui. The 66-year-old La'ie resident was but a few minutes away from being a kid again.

Marlys Werle of La'ie, right, embraces vacationing Beverly Stueber, whom she had not seen since they were schoolgirls in homemade cotton dresses in Starbuck, Minn.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

"This is going to put me back to being 12 years old," Werle said before being reunited with a childhood friend from Starbuck, Minn., whom she hasn't seen since 1948. "It's a gift of love."

The reunion Friday was a testament to lasting friendships formed in America's small towns.

Shortly before 10 a.m., Yvonne Boissoneau of Aloha Airlines escorted Beverly and Jack Stueber of Austin, Texas, into the lounge where Werle and her family were waiting with flower leis.

"Oh, Bev, finally, finally," Werle said as the two women hugged each other. "I can't believe it."

The former Beverly Olson and Werle, whose maiden name was Syverston, first met in 1945 when the latter's family moved from Alexandria, Minn., to Starbuck, a main-street town with a population of less than 1,200 near Lake Minnewaska in the west-central part of the state. Werle's father owned a laundry and dry-cleaning business in Starbuck in 1945-48. Her family moved back to Alexandria for a year when she was 12 and then to Sydney, Mont.

Werle recalls Starbuck as "the best years of my life."

Beverly Stueber's Maui trip opened the opportunity for her to see her old friend again.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

"It's amazing to me that after not knowing what happened to any of my friends for 51 years, we were able to make contact and I found out they still remembered me," Werle said. "Starbuck was a warm, loving community where we were allowed to be children."

Werle's favorite memories of Starbuck include homemade cotton dresses, thick chocolate milk shakes, walking down the gravel road to go swimming in the lake, participating in Friday night potlucks at the Lutheran church and going to the movie house afterward.

"The shakes cost 25 cents, but we'd get two refills," she said. "All my friends lived on Main Street."

One of Werle's childhood friends wrote about three years ago to let her know about the death of another friend. Carmen Nelson of Kane, Pa., had exchanged Christmas cards with Werle for a while but let about 20 years lapse until she sent the 1999 letter.

Nelson, née Heegard, provided Werle with addresses of other former classmates. Werle began writing to them. Last October, the Starbuck Times ran a 1947 school photo of Werle and her friends in its trivia section. Receiving copies of the photo further rekindled memories for Werle, who has lived in Hawai'i since 1976.

In January, she learned that the Stuebers were planning a Maui vacation.

"For me, it's a dream come true," said Werle, a relief manager with the Association for Retarded Citizens who helps supervise 12 residents at a McCully apartment complex. "It's something I thought would never happen."