Friendship forged between Fleet and Speyer still flourishing 50 years on

Stephanie Cornthwaite (left) and Doris Cornelius celebrate 50 years of friendship this year.
Stephanie Cornthwaite (left) and Doris Cornelius celebrate 50 years of friendship this year.

A friendship that grew out of Spalding’s link with twin town Speyer is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

There have been parties in England and Germany, and a holiday in Italy is planned this month in celebration of the anniversary of the first meeting of the two women on a twin town visit.

One of them was Stephanie Halgarth, now Cornthwaite, then living in Fleet, who was one of 30 Spalding High School girls, as well as teachers and six boys from Spalding Grammar School, who spent two weeks with host families in Speyer in 1963.

Stephanie stayed with the Sauer family in Speyer and made friends with the daughter, Doris, now Cornelius.

In 1989, this newspaper carried a feature about the friendship entitled, “Friendship endured twenty-five years”.

Stephanie, now living near Doncaster, wrote to us to say: “The title now would be ‘Friendship flourishes fifty years on’!

“Thanks to modern communications, we are now able to keep in touch easily and meet up several times a year – a far cry from the early days when an international call was expensive, a letter took a week, and travel was difficult.”

In fact, the High School party made their trip to Germany in 1963 by boat-train.

The following year, Doris met Stephanie’s family in Fleet, and a friendship developed between the two families that has endured through the years.

Quite early on the two fathers discovered they had both been in the Battle of Cassino – on different sides.

Stephanie said: “Although both fathers have died, our mothers, in Fleet and in Speyer, enjoy renewing the acquaintance – as do our children and grandchildren – the fourth generation is progressing well and companionably.”

As was reported in the 1989 article, the two women’s lives followed a remarkably similar course, both going to university where they met their future husbands, and both studying to become teachers – of English and German.

They went on to work as teachers, had two children apiece and each has shared memorable events, such as weddings, with the other family.

Coun Angela Newton, chairman of the Friends of Speyer, says it’s still a “healthy link” with about 30 people from Spalding involved in visits part funded by the sale of English produce at the German Christmas markets. Contact her on 07939 559764 for details.