Pen pals for 70 years: North Dakota woman tells of special bond with Queen Elizabeth II

Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 2:44 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Park River, North Dakota is five thousand miles away from Buckingham Palace. But for the past 70 years, letters have brought Queen Elizabeth II and one North Dakota woman together.

The queen was born on April 21, 1926. So was Park River’s Adele Hankey.

“I was born the same as Queen Elizabeth,” said Adele Hankey.

When the queen was crowned, Adele wrote her a letter. The queen sent back a birthday card.

“I could have jumped out of my shoes,” said Hankey.

Handwritten letters between Adele and the queen became a birthday tradition.

“We had a teacher in school that said make your L’s long and your E’s little. So, we did,” said Hankey.

She always got a note in return.

“I asked her for a hat. I was hoping she would send me one. But she sent a lovely picture on her birthday,” said Adele.

While she never met the queen, the two shared a special connection about one of Adele’s passions: cooking.

“The recipes the queen liked were with marmalade. And so do I. How about that?” said Adele.

Adele doesn’t know how many letters she’s sent, but she said she’ll miss the communication.

“Oh, absolutely. You miss your pen pals,” said Hankey.

Another tie she has to the queen is her cabin up in Sioux Narrows, Ontario. That’s because Canada is still linked to the British royal family.

In the meantime, Adele’s mostly enjoying the time she spends with her family at home in North Dakota.

“I wouldn’t give it up for all the tea in China,” said Hankey.

She said when she turns 100, she might have to wear a hat.

Hankey is also an avid writer. She’s written for the Dakota Country Magazine, Walsh County Records and the Walsh County Press. She even has a cookbook and is known for her wildlife recipes.