“It was a long time ago,” says Fran Welker, as she reminisces on a friendship she never thought she would be able to rekindle.
Fran has been in and out of St. John’s Home for 10 years for rehabilitation, up until two years ago when she made the move to staying at St. John’s full time. However, it was not until recently that she discovered she was a few feet away from a childhood friend.
Victoria Uttaro met Fran Welker over 60 years ago. Both of their mothers worked at the National Clothing Company in the alterations department. After Fran and Victoria were introduced to each other, the four women became fast friends.
“We went on a lot of trips together, our families,” said Victoria. “I have a lot of fond memories of us and our mothers together.”
Though Fran and Victoria had not seen each other in 60 years, they vividly remember one of their favorite outings.
“Victoria really wanted a cheesecake,” said Fran. “So, we took a train into New York City, and she had brought a whole cheesecake in this big box back to her family, in perfect condition” she laughed.
Victoria also mentioned the two saw a showing of Camelot on Broadway during their cheesecake adventure. “But what I really wanted was this cheesecake, and Fran said, ‘Do you want to go to the city?’ and we just went, and I got my cheesecake.”
“We met these other young people on the train, it was a really fun time,” said Victoria. “We always had a really fun time back then.”
Fran and Victoria would frequent Hank’s Soda Shoppe most days after school at Thomas Jefferson High School, enjoying hotdogs and chocolate malts. Fran said, “that was the kids’ hangout and we’d walk to Vicky’s house after.”
Though the two have found memories of each other, they recall the bittersweet memory of their final meeting 60 years ago.
Victoria recounted, “She told me one day, ‘Victoria, I am getting married.’ And after she got married, we went our separate ways. I will always remember that day, Fran with her long black hair at my home on Parkway, saying she was leaving to get married.”
Fran said she also remembered that day, telling her best friend she was getting married and soon after losing contact.
“We were friends in our twenties, we grew up and went onto different things,” Fran said. Fran went on to raising a family and Victoria was the caregiver and breadwinner for her parents.
“But the other day when I was at the desk and I heard the name Victoria Uttaro, I turned around and said, ‘Oh my god, Vicky is here!’ I was so surprised.”
The two were able to sit down and talk, catching up on the lost time. Victoria said the two friends look a bit different from the last time they saw each other, but “it was great seeing her.”
“Fran had this beautiful long black hair, and now we both look different, I know I do.” Victoria laughed. “I mean, the last time I saw her, I was 21, that was over 60 years, it has been a long time.” Fran and Victoria both realize the time that has passed and say they are happy to have reconnected.
“She is diagonal from me, just a door down, I am still so shocked,” Fran said with a smile.
Victoria said “No one ever thinks they are going to end up at place like this, but that’s the way it crumbles as we get older. It is nice that we are both here, after all this time.”