Published: February 01. 2013 2:00AM
Written by Stephanie Morgan
Photographed by Josh Norris
Real friends are the ultimate gift and those who have been around awhile are the best of all.
While everyone loves the thrill of meeting someone new, there are just some decisions that require none other than a friend whose been around for decades. We decided to take a look at this best-friend dynamic from a few happy BFFs who have it all figured out.
In even the longest relationships, at some point there is a beginning. Caroline Thomasson and Sarah Sanders are in the early days of what will surely be a long and happy tale of friendship —two first cousins more often seen together than apart.
Millie Thomasson, Caroline’s mother, says it all boils down to one simple fact.
“Sarah is the sister Caroline doesn’t have,” Thomasson says. “She finishes her sentences and loves her with all of her heart. They give each other the biggest hugs and just light up every time they are together.”
With such a sweet friendship, it’s no surprise that they chose to have their last birthday celebrations together since their birthdays are just a month apart. There are plenty of secrets to be shared ahead in the story of these two girlfriends. Luckily for them, neither will ever have to go it alone.
Mahaley Jennings and Eugenia Waldrop have known each other since they were toddlers, these days finishing each other’s sentences and often communicating with only a glance. Looking back, they remember spending time together as students in middle school, forming a lasting friendship while attending dances and through participating in Young Life, an organization with activities geared toward helping young adults learn the importance in healthy and meaningful relationships.
“My sense of humor is so much like Mahaley’s,” Waldrop says. “ I think we just understood each other from a very young age.”
Mahaley agrees that the friendship just gets stronger every year.
“We had so much fun together in high school and then shared a room at Furman, giving us the opportunity to be together as much as possible,” she says.
Both credit coming from families with similar expectations and strong beliefs for the desire to raise their own families in the same way. Now living just minutes away from each other, these best friends hope their children will find lifelong friendships just as special as the one they share.
All best friends aren’t always similar, as anyone who knows Mary Hipp, Greenville philanthropist and active community leader, knows.
Hipp is often seen escorting her 115 pound best friend, Belle, one of many Mary has loved from Great Dane Friends of Ruff Love, a rescue program. Providing a foster home for dogs in need of rehabilitation and rescue provides the support only true friends share. Hipp has opened her heart and her home, saying that all Great Danes want little more than to please their owners.
Belle spends lots of happy days striding around downtown, fully aware of every store stocked with treats for her. Hipp says Belle loves joining her for meetings and walks around town with her head held high.
“She comes to all meetings with me except those at the zoo for obvious reasons,” she says.
In April, the two will be working together to raise funds for the Greenville Humane Society in the second annual Pet Project Runway. The two are truly BFFs for a better Greenville.
Susan Wilkins says that as far as she is concerned, when life gets tough it’s always better to have Richard Roche nearby. Friends since junior high, the two share experiences of growing up in small-town South Carolina making great memories on sleds during those gone-but-not-forgotten snowy winters. They even attended their prom together.
Roche, as Wilkins calls him, was there for her when her husband was killed in Vietnam just months after they were married. He was also there when her father died in a car accident shortly after that. While those were tough times, the two look back and are happy to have had each another for support and encouragement. Today, their story continues: Wilkins is married to Roche’s fraternity brother and great friend, former speaker of the House of South Carolina and former ambassador to Canada David Wilkins.
“Roche is a part of our family, and we want him around as much possible to bring joy and laughter,” Wilkins says. “Our grandchildren love visits with him, latching on to him on family vacations to the beach several times a year. I know he is the best friend I could have ever asked for — a wonderful person who has kept me laughing even when I didn’t think that I could.”
Sometimes it’s our children who lead perfect friends to us — field trips, class parties, fundraisers — they all lend themselves to perfect opportunities to engage in conversations with others experiencing exactly the same emotions, questions and joys brought on by parenting. Why should the kids have all the fun?
Charlene Comer made two of her best friends while her three boys, now fathers themselves, were just children. She met Lottie Smith in New Jersey just before moving to Greenville as a new mother. Not a year later, Smith and her husband moved to Greenville too with the textile industry. Smith, mother of two with one on the way, looked to Comer for guidance as she settled into her new life in the South.
As the children grew, they began school together. Soon, Joyce Parks joined the fun after meeting Comer at school. Those days are now memories 40 years old and the three feel as though they have been together through life’s most precious moments. They have celebrated graduations, weddings and grandchildren, served their community in dozens of roles, supported each other through sicknesses and deaths of spouses, and have played some pretty terrific pranks on one another over the years. They are the best kind of friends, tried and true, through thick and thin.
At any stage of life, friendship is the gift that keeps on giving, and this time of year it’s exciting to think of where we are headed next.
One things for sure: We’re better together.
|Joyce Parks, Lottie Smith and Charlene ComerJosh Norris/Contributor|