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96-year-old Park River woman who exchanged cards yearly with Queen Elizabeth II shared birthdays

Adele Hankey and the Queen were born on the exact same day in 1926 and have shared a bond across the ocean for decades.

Adele holds some of the 70 years of letters she exchanged with Queen Elizabeth II. The two shared identical birthdays and birth year.
Kevin Wallevand / WDAY News
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PARK RIVER, N.D. — You can bet Adele Hankey will be glued to the TV in coming days, as the world mourns the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Adele and the queen had a special bond. The two were born on the same day, in the same year. That sparked an exchange of cards and letters that spanned more than seven decades.

"There's my favorite," Hankey said, pointing to the queen's picture.

Hankey sure doesn't look 96. And if you ask her, she doesn't feel it.

"Oh, yeah. I can turn a somersault. I can," Hankey said smiling.


A sense of humor and zest for life? You bet.

"Whoopie-doo," she laughs.

But on Friday, Sept. 9, Hankey is thinking about someone she never met, but who felt like family. Queen Elizabeth.

"Pen pal, that's what I call her, and I am going to miss that," she said.

Both were born on April 21, 1926. For the last 70 years, the two have exchanged birthday letters, cards and photos.

"She became queen in 1952, and I wrote her and congratulated her, and she sent back a birthday card, so I sent her one, and it has been going like that since," Hankey said.

The two even wrote about a shared love of a fruit spread.

"I liked the jelly she put on bread because it was the same as mine," she said. "It was orange marmalade, and she had written that back in one of her cards," she said.


News of the queen's death, while expected, still hits Hankey. There was a bond there.

"Oh, yes, and I looked forward to it (receiving the queen's letters)," she said.

Still always quick with her wit, Hankey seems practical at 96.

"And may the good Lord help us get to heaven a half-hour before the devil knows we're there," Hankey said.

She says she will make it to 97 this April. But for the first time she will celebrate it without Queen Elizabeth, her birthday partner for 96 years.

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

Contact Email: kwallevand@wday.com
Phone Number: (701) 241-5317
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