Message in a bottle creates lifelong friendship

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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) -- The story of Alice St. James and Missy Mannisto’s friendship begins in 1974, when Alice's brother, Bill Leach, threw a message in a bottle into the waves of Lake Michigan.

However, it would remain untouched until 1984 when the bottle finally washed ashore in Nahma Township, Mich.

"We opened it and read the letter and it was real basic," recalled Mannisto. "It just said, 'Hi, my name is Bill Leach, I am 13 years old, I live in Milwaukee. If you find this, please write back.'"

Mannisto did write back to Leach and a week later heard shocking news from Bill's family.

The letter read: "Thank you for finding and sending the letter in the bottle written by my son Bill, it meant a great deal to me. You see, Bill died in July 1983. He was 21 years old. Don’t feel sad, he was a delightful warm, outgoing young man who enjoyed living every day. I’m just sorry he isn’t here to know all this time you found his letter."

St. James took this opportunity to keep writing Mannisto, and soon the two became close friends through the letters.

"In the letters, I was really big on asking Missy a lot of questions about hobbies, what she likes for girl and boy names," said St. James. "There was already a bond way back when, I just adored her in our correspondence."

The two would continue writing back and forth until 1993 when both lost touch as they grew up. However, Mannisto came across St. James' name last year on Facebook and immediately reconnected their unique friendship.

"I knew right away who she was, too. I’m getting goosebumps right now thinking of it," said St. James. "It was great. It was like my long-lost friend came back and now after all these years, we finally got the chance to meet."

The two took Saturday to catch up after all the years apart, reread their past letters and to give each other gifts to explain how much each of them mean to each other.

"She just holds a special part of history for my family and everything about me," said St. James.

Both plan to stay connected and to continue to visit each other in the future. They hope their story of friendship will inspire others to take a chance.

"If Missy didn’t take that chance to write back, we wouldn't be here today, we wouldn’t be friends."

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