Former Telford RAF man Ralph, 92, delights pen pals with his tales

The lockdown has proved an opportunity to make all sorts of new friends for 92-year-old Telford RAF veteran Ralph Neale, who has been regaling his new pen pals with tales of his fascinating life.

For Ralph, writing letters to pen pals is nothing new. Ever since being stationed in Egypt during the Second World War, he has corresponded with people eager to hear from others and find out about their lives.

Now, as the coronavirus lockdown keeps most people indoors, Ralph, who lives at Sanctuary Housing’s Hartshorne Court in Dawley, is once again forging new friendships through letter writing.

Scheme manager Vivienne Chalmers was approached by schools and families with children who wanted people to write to and so Ralph and a number of other residents have been put in contact.

Ralph, who has lived at Hartshorne Court for four years, regularly writes to a few families and receives replies every two or three days.

One reply from Antonia Johnston included a handmade rainbow which Ralph displays in his window.

Antonia Johnston, one of Ralph's new pen pals

“It’s most interesting and great entertainment,” he said. “With the things they write I feel like I have to reply and discuss the subjects they want to talk about.”

Not surprisingly, Ralph’s 25-year career in the RAF and subsequent stint as an engineer with British Leyland as well as a security guard at Asda, something he did until he was 79, are top of the list.

He continued: “They want to know about me and it’s interesting to find out about their lives too. There are plans in place for us all to meet up when this is over, although that could be a while yet.

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“One family are dog lovers and I had Westies for 30 years so I can’t wait to meet them.”

While becoming a pen pal has provided Ralph with a way of keeping in touch with people, he is certainly not short of things to do during the current lockdown.

Ralph, who has six children and 18 grandchildren, said: “This is my way of life, I keep pretty much to myself because I have hobbies such as painting and tapestry to help the day pass, I am quite used to it.

“I am also very lucky because I have a marvellous daughter and family who live nearby in Wellington who do all my laundry and shopping.”

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