Friends reunited after 38 years

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 01 Feb 2004


PENANG: Their paths were destined to cross again 38 years later, particularly with Valentine’s Day around the corner and with a little help from two well-meaning “Cupids”. 

Dutch tourist Hans Van Leuven, 76, had thought he did not have the ghost of a chance to be reunited with his long-lost friend Olive Reed, whom he had met here in 1966, but things happily turned out otherwise. 

The war veteran, now on a two-month holiday here with his children, Christopher, 29, and Marjolein, 28, had frequently expressed his wish to find the 82-year-old widow of Dutch-Chinese parentage. 

Christopher said they immediately started making enquiries when they arrived here on Jan 11. 

“We found Reed’s address and telephone number through a friend,” he said. 

LASTING FRIENDSHIP: Van Leuven giving roses to Reed in her home in Tanjung Bungah, Penang Saturday. With them are Christopher and Marjolein.

The children planned a surprise meeting on Friday when they brought their father to her house in Tanjung Bungah. 

The long separated friends could not recognise each other, and when Christopher told his father it was Reed, smiles lit up their faces and Van Leuven took her hand in his. 

And she blushed like a young girl when he gallantly picked up some roses from a vase nearby and gave them to her, saying: “This is to symbolise that I will never forget you.” 

Van Leuven, who also worked as a freelance photographer, said he was a bachelor when he rented a room in Reed’s house in Air Itam back in 1966. 

“I was on a one-month holiday here as I love the tropical weather. I decided to rent a room, which was a cheaper alternative. That was how I met her. 

“I remember Olive as a kind, open-minded and strong woman. She was also a good cook, especially with fish dishes,” he quipped. 

In that month, they spent a lot time together while she showed him the interesting spots on the island such as the Snake Temple. 

However, he recalled, they lost touch with one another after he left Penang as he was hopeless when it came to writing letters. 

He did try looking for her when holidaying here in 2001 but all his efforts proved futile. 

“She has been in my mind all these years. A fortune-teller once told me that I had to choose between a younger woman and an older one. I made the wrong choice and married the younger one,” said Van Leuven, who is divorced with three daughters and a son. 

Reed, who has a son and six daughters, said she had also constantly thought of him and wondered how he was. 

“It’s just wonderful to meet him after all these years. This shows that our friendship is fated to be a long one,” she said. 

Asked if they would remarry, they both said: “We are too old for that.” 

But perhaps the two may have second thoughts about that. 

As Christopher observed: “My father will have a nice life in Penang if he ever decides to remarry.”  

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