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July 24, 2006

Athens man finally meets World War II-era pen-pal 64 years after first correspondence



In 1942, U.S. Army Lt. Noel Mason was stationed outside of Beek, Holland (now the Netherlands). He stayed with a family by the last name of van Kan, a family that included two daughters. One of them, Mien, was the same age as Mason’s nephew, Travis.

“He would help them out,” Athens resident Travis Mason, 76, said about his uncle. “He would give them some of his personal rations, because they were hungry. They were so grateful. Even after he got back to the states, he still sent them supplies.”

The two became pen-pals through Lt. Mason. Travis’s brother, Huey Wayne, also wrote to Mien. Travis and Mien only kept in touch for about four years, but lost touch after that.

Sixty-four years after their first correspondence, the two finally met in April, when the Masons were there for 12 days visiting family.

The plan was masterminded by Travis’s wife, Tommie. Her niece, Winnette Warren, lives in the Netherlands with her husband, Jimmy, who is a master sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, and their two sons. The couple is stationed at AFNorth NATO Base in Beek. “Travis still had a letter from her,” she said.

“When we were going to the Netherlands to visit my niece and nephew, we didn’t know where the letter came from, or anything. He wondered if we could find the town, and as a surprise to him, I got to thinking, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could find the people?”

With the help of her niece, Tommie Mason was able to give her husband the surprise of a lifetime. “He had no idea we were planning all of this,” Tommie said.

“We didn’t tell him until we got there.”

On April 10, the Limburgs Dagblad, a Dutch newspaper, ran a request Winnette Warren had submitted, requesting information on Mien van Kan and her family.

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