ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Cleo Godwin recognized her childhood friend Glenna Ferguson right away.
Ferguson and her family had just flown to Albuquerque from her Illinois home and driven to Godwin’s apartment. Upon pulling up to Godwin’s driveway, Ferguson didn’t have a chance to get out of the car before Godwin bent down to give her a hug.
The two shared a tearful embrace, one 72 years in the making.
Godwin and Ferguson were best friends who grew up in a small town in Missouri, until Godwin’s family moved to California when the girls were both 13 years old. The two lost touch, but always wondered what happened to one another.
It took seven decades and one persistent grandson to bring the pair together again.
Godwin and Ferguson, now 85, sat at Godwin’s home this past Sunday afternoon and shared the story of their friendship, the lives they led apart and how they both thought about each other through the years before reuniting once again.
‘I thought we’d never find her’
Godwin and Ferguson grew up next door to each other, a small creek separating their childhood homes, in the country town of Leasburg, Mo.
The girls attended the same school and played together each day, often playing house or imagining their wedding day at a nearby church.
“We would go into the church and take lace curtains and pretend to be brides going down the aisle,” Ferguson said. “We had big imaginations.”
Yet neither imagined that they would lose touch for so long.
Ferguson recalled the day Godwin left.
“She got on the train and that was it,” Ferguson said. “I got on my bicycle and rode down the road and I was so sad I just cried.”
Ferguson often spoke to her children and grandchildren about Godwin, known as Cleo Eaton back then.
“Growing up I always heard about Cleo,” said Sheila Muhlbaier, Ferguson’s daughter. “I knew she was a good friend and they had a special bond.”
Ferguson shared the same stories with her grandchildren, including grandson Jace Ferguson, a teenager who set out to find his grandmother’s childhood friend using the power of the Internet.
Jace searched for Cleo Eaton, Godwin’s maiden name, but couldn’t find a match. He then reached out to her friends and extended family members still living in Leasburg, but they too only knew the family had moved to California in the 1940s.
“I thought we’d never find her,” Ferguson said. “But [Jace] was persistent.”
“We would call so many people and they wouldn’t have any information,” Jace said. “But I said, ‘Don’t worry Grandma, we’ll find her.'”
‘Yes, it is’
Finally, a relative with the Eaton last name said she knew Godwin and had a way to get her phone number.
Ferguson made the first phone call in August of last year.
Godwin remembers the day.
“A lady’s voice said, ‘Is this the Cleo Eaton from Leasburg,’ and I said, ‘Yes it is, Glenna,'” Godwin said. “I called her by name. The tears came down my face. I just knew it had to be Glenna.”
Godwin and Ferguson’s first phone call lasted an hour and a half as they exchanged memories and details of their current lives.
Godwin had raised three children in California before retiring in Albuquerque to be closer to her sister. Ferguson had moved to St. Louis, Mo., and raised two children, Jacko and Sheila. Ferguson’s husband passed away in 2009. She lives alone in Granite City, Ill., but remains close to her children and grandchildren.
Planning to meet
Since their first conversation in August, Ferguson and Godwin spoke on the phone once a week. Ferguson’s family knew how special the two friends’ relationship was, so they encouraged Ferguson to visit Godwin.
“I think sometimes we’re lucky to have someone in our life that we really connect with, so I told my mom there was no time to waste and they should try their best to see each other,” Muhlbaier said.
Ferguson, her daughter, son and grandson flew to Albuquerque on April 10.
So much had happened in their lives, but Ferguson and Godwin’s special bond remained the same.
Ferguson and her family stayed in Albuquerque for the weekend and flew back to Missouri on Sunday. The Ferguson family said they’ll try to convince Godwin to travel to visit Ferguson – with a visit to their hometown – next trip.