The first signatures of Catherine Crewe of Fernie, and Nancy Nester of Invermere in a Christmas card they have been sending back and forth to each other since 1964. Pictured: Catherine pointing to her and Nancy’s first signatures when they were both five years old. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

The first signatures of Catherine Crewe of Fernie, and Nancy Nester of Invermere in a Christmas card they have been sending back and forth to each other since 1964. Pictured: Catherine pointing to her and Nancy’s first signatures when they were both five years old. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

60 years of good wishes: Two long-time Kootenay penpals keep a Christmas tradition alive

Catherine Crewe of Fernie, and Nancy Nester of Invermere have been sending the same card back and forth to each other since they were both five years old

There’s a little bit of history going back and forth in the mail in East Kootenay, with a Christmas card that dates back more than 60 years making a regular trek through Canada Post every year.

Fernie resident Catherine Crewe, and Invermere resident Nancy Nester have been signing, dating, and sending the same Christmas card back and forth to each other since they were both five years old.

Crewe, who sends the card to Nester on odd-numbered years, said that it began when her mother received a card from Nester’s mother in 1960.

“My mom and Nancy’s mom were best friends in Toronto, growing up and going to school,” she said.

Crewe’s mother kept the card she received in 1961, signed it with her name and the year, and sent it back from where she lived in Lethbridge.

That simple act began a tradition, with Crewe and Nester taking over responsibility of sending the card back and forth to where-ever the other lived across Canada starting in 1964, when Nester was five years old.

Since then, the two long-time penpals haven’t missed a year, even if they infrequently meet in person.

“There’s no unbroken year – there’s every year marked,” said Crewe.

“Every even-numbered year she sends it to me, and every odd-numbered year I send it to her.”

That means, as we get close to Christmas in 2021, Crewe is in possession of the card which she’ll soon be sending to Nester, in Invermere.

“We take good care of it now,” she said. “We register it with the mail because we don’t want it lost.”

Nancy Nester of Invermere (right) and Catherine Crewe of Fernie (left) exchanging the card in 2020, when they met in person in Kimberley. (Image courtesy of Catherine Crewe)

Nancy Nester of Invermere (right) and Catherine Crewe of Fernie (left) exchanging the card in 2020, when they met in person in Kimberley. (Image courtesy of Catherine Crewe)

The card has done a lot of travelling between where they both have lived over the years – Toronto, Lethbridge, Fernie, Waterton, Victoria and Invermere.

The card is simple, reading “Have a merry Christmas and the happiest new year ever!”

The card itself, which has passed back and forth between Nancy (left) and Catherine( right) since 1964, and since 1960 between their parents. Pictured in Kimberley, B.C. when they exchanged it in 2020. (Image courtesy of Catherine Crewe)

The card itself, which has passed back and forth between Nancy (left) and Catherine( right) since 1964, and since 1960 between their parents. Pictured in Kimberley, B.C. when they exchanged it in 2020. (Image courtesy of Catherine Crewe)

Over the years, it’s been filling up with names and dates.

“You can see how our writing has changed over the years,” said Crewe, pointing to Nester’s first signature in 1964, and hers underneath, from 1965.

“What it means to me is it brings back memories of my mom,” said Crewe, who explained neither her mom or Nester’s had any plan to keep it, or begin a tradition when they first sent the card back to each other.

“They were busy – they were both working moms raising kids and a family, and they kept at this.

“For me its really important to keep it going in memory of my mom.”

There’s no plans to stop anytime soon – while the inside of the card is filling up, it’s printed on a letter-size piece of paper.

“There’s still space.”

Nester said that the tradition was a compelling one, and was probably one for the record books by now. The current record (as recorded by Guiness World Records) for exchanging the same Christmas card is held by two Americans, who sent the same card back and forth for 57 years between 1930 and 1987.

Nester said that she nor Crewe had any intention of breaking the tradition anytime soon.

“Of course (we’ll keep it going) – as long as we can.”

READ MORE: Fernie Meat Market sells, third-generation owner to retire



scott.tibballs@thefreepress.ca
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