Star Staff Reports
This story begins long before computers and Facebook were even common knowledge among the world.
It all began 55 years ago when Cheryle Sanville Jenner was introduced to pen paling through her mother. Her mother, being a career Army wife often found pen paling as a way of comfort being stationed so far from home, family, and friends.
Cheryle’s mother had a pen pal in Malta (a small island below Italy and Sicily) who had a daughter about the same age and thus they began writing. The daughter lost interest shortly after they began writing and gave Cheryle’s name and address to her friend, Carmen Borg Cassar. The friendship began between Carmen and Cheryle at the young age of 11 years old, via the mail system. They started writing about their families, school, interests, hobbies, teen idols, boy friends, and eventually husbands, children and grandchildren.
Carmen met Frank Cassar and married in August of 1967. Cheryle met Bill Jenner (also through pen paling) and married October 1968. Bill was serving in the U.S. Navy and deployed to the Mediterranean in January of 1969. Would you believe one of their ports was Malta?
Naturally, Cheryle wrote Carmen that Bill would be coming to Malta and of course Carmen invited Bill to visit their home. Since Malta was an English colony for over 100 years everyone there speaks English as well as their native language of Maltese. Most signs are in English as well. So Bill was able to meet Carmen, Frank, and baby Joseph, the first year of their marriage and of course Cheryle was a bit jealous.
Cheryle and Carmen continued to write and the friendship grew as their families grew. Bill made a career of the U.S. Navy and it was a dream for both the pen pals to meet one day!
The dream came true in 1980 when the Jenner’s received orders to Sigonella, Sicily. This was the closest U.S. Navy base to Malta, and only an eight hour ferry boat ride away. So it looked like the dream was finally going to come true! By now the pen pals are in their early thirties with Carmen and Frank having three children at the time; Joseph, Ruben and Sharon and Cheryle and Bill had two; Shane and Tara. The Jenner’s began planning their trip to Malta in August of 1980. It was a dream come true at last when they met for the first time. The Jenner’s were first taken to Carmen’s sister’s house, Rose and George Perrett where they were treated to a wonderful reception and a little rest before boarding another ferry boat to the island of Gozo (30 minutes away) where Carmen, Frank, and family lived. They spent about two weeks with the Cassar family sightseeing, meeting all their family and friends, attending a festival and enjoying the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. It truly felt like a “family reunion” as they both knew so much about each other’s families from the years of writing.
The following summer Carmen and her three children came to Sicily to visit the Jenner family on the naval base. This was their first time off the island of Gozo and Malta and a real life time experience for them as well. Besides seeing the local sights of Catania and Augusta Bay in Sicily the Cassar’s got to enjoy a bit of America through the Jenner’s by attending an American Catholic Mass on the base, going bowling, enjoying a swimming pool, going to play Bingo, and going to the base thrift store. The children got along extremely well and played as cousins often do. Cheryle got to make one more brief trip to visit Malta in 1981 before returning to the USA and being stationed in Barbers Point, Hawaii with her husband and family.
Carmen had one more child after those visits and his name was Mark Anthony but Cheryle never got to meet him till recently.
The letter’s continued to flow back and forth through the year’s often taking months to reach each other, yet the pen pals never lost contact. Can you imagine what was spent in postage over 55 years? Also the pen pals exchanged Christmas and birthday gifts as well for many years.
As they grew older it was their dream to meet each other one more time. Sharon, Carmen’s daughter, wrote Cheryle on the computer and asked her to send the story of how her mother and she became pen pals (they call it pen friends in Malta). So she did and Sharon entered the story, in a local Maltese TV show called “Arani Issa”, starring Dr, Joseph Chetcuti. The show is similar to the old shows of “This is your Life” or “Queen for a Day” in America.
You nominate someone for an award of some kind and Sharon nominated her mother because of all the kind things she has done for family and friends and Sharon stated her mom’s dream was to see Cheryle one more time. Low and behold, the story is chosen and the next thing Cheryle knows she is being phoned and emailed by Dr. Chetcuti to come to Malta for a surprise visit. No one is to be told about the visit for fear the news will get out on facebook so only Sharon and Cheryle’s immediate family knew of the visit to come. Rebecca Dawson, leisure travel specialist, with Travelennium, in Atoka and Dr. Joseph Chetcuti began making all the necessary travel arrangements.
The TV show, “Arani Issa” paid all Cheryle’s air expenses, food, and put her up in a five star hotel in Malta for two days prior to the show. Sharon, Carmen’s daughter, came to the hotel the second day to greet her adopted “Aunt Cheryle” whom she had not seen since age four but she knew her by exchanged photo’s over the years. The night the show was being taped Cheryle was picked up and taken to the show. Once there, they did a pre-interview with Cheryle talking to Carmen and telling her it was a skyped message from her.
Then Dr. Chetcuti brought Cheryle out to introduce the story to the live audience in attendance including Carmen’s family. Carmen was still waiting in the car with her daughter, Sharon, waiting to come in and be interviewed. She knew she was coming to the show to receive a surprise gift but had no idea what the surprise was. Then they hide Cheryle and bring Carmen and Sharon out. In between, this other people appear on the show for various talents and reasons from make-over’s to singers.
At the end of the show, Dr. Chetcuti brings Carmen back on stage and shows her the supposedly skyped tape made earlier by Cheryle telling Carmen she was sorry she couldn’t be with her tonight when she is being honored but due to health problems that both she and her husband have it was just not possible. Carmen appears to understand. Then the stage fills with smoke and while Dr. Chetcuti is talking to Carmen, Cheryle walks in behind him and of course Carmen and Cheryle unite with tears and hugs that have built up for thirty-five years for this reunion of true sisterly love.
Their “dream did come true”! Then all of Carmen’s family that was present came to the stage for hugs, reunions, and professional photo’s for their American adopted “Aunt”.
Following the show, they caught the ferry boat to the island of Gozo where Carmen lives.
They spent the next two and half weeks enjoying each other’s company, sightseeing, going to a Maltese concert, and renewing their life-long friendship through four photo albums Cheryle had brought with her. In addition, she met Carmen and Frank’s youngest son, Mark who was born after her last visit to their home.
In addition, Cheryle was surprised that Sharon and her older brother, Ruben still had toys and gifts Cheryle had sent them over the years and treasured them dearly. Many she had forgotten she sent such as a hula doll from Hawaii and a deck of Olympic playing cards but they still had and were in mint condition for they cherished these small gifts.
Cheryle truly feels Carmen’s family has become part of her family and she has been blessed to have them in her life all these years. The show was taped and is scheduled to be aired in Malta some time in December or January.
Date not determined at this time. It was their dream to see each other one more time in their lives and thanks to the Arani Issa TV show and Dr. Joseph Chetcuti this became a reality
Star Staff Reports