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Posted: 8:36 a.m. Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Unlikely Story: WWII Vet & Preschooler Best of Friends 

This story melted my heart as soon as I saw the photo.

The NY Daily News reports, "Little Emmett Rychner, 3, and Erling Kindem became friends last year when the inquisitive tot helped the elderly man tend to his tomato garden plot. Their close friendship blossomed, staying close even during the winter. But the Rychner family has sold their house and is set to move, breaking apart the inseparable pals.

For these two best buds, age is just a number.

A Minnesota preschooler has befriended his neighbor, an 89-year-old World War II veteran, over a love of tomatoes, tractor racing and the simple joys of life.

But for Erling Kindem and his little pal Emmett Rychner, 3, their fast friendship will soon see a split: the growing Rychner family plans to move out of their Farmington home, while Kindem, nearing 90, will move into a senior home with his ailing wife.

“It’s tough,” an emotional Kindem, who flew combat missions over Europe during WWII, told KARE-TV.


For nearly 10 years, the Rychners lived next door to Kindem, exchanging pleasantries but otherwise keeping to themselves, little Emmett’s parents, Bryan and Anika Rychner, told the news station.

But last year, precocious at just age 2, Emmett started a friendship that has endured even the cold and snowy Minnesota winter.

"They kind of bonded over the tomatoes in his garden," Anika told KARE, "because Emmett loves tomatoes."

So does Kindem.

“Every time he saw me out there he would come running over: ’Erling, got any 'matoes?'" the elderly man laughed as he recounted their budding friendship.

The two became close quickly, with Kindem teaching the little boy things about fixing a bike, throwing a baseball or fishing. They’d even play croquet, the war veteran staying spry with the little tyke by his side. The two would race their matching green John Deere tractors: Kindem’s the real kind, Emmett’s a toy replica.

KAREAnika Rychner says her little boy, Emmett broke the ice with her elderly neighbor — and the two, 86 years apart in age, are now nearly inseparable.

"His patience is unbelievable," Bryan Rychner told the station. “He sees Emmett outside playing, he'll find a reason to go outside."

The boy’s mother worried the cold winter would freeze the friendship, forcing both to stay inside and end their unlikely bond.

"I was in the kitchen and I heard the snow blower going, sounds like Erling is really close to the house," she told KARE. "I opened the window and he was snow blowing a path from his back door to our back door."

KAREEmmett Rychner and Erling Kindem like to tractor race and garden together, despite their difference in age.

Now it’s not the winter that threatens the two pals. The Rychners, with another child, have outgrown their home of about a decade.

"I told (Kindem) ahead of time there was going to be a 'for sale' sign in our yard," she recalled. "Then I went in the house and I cried for about an hour."

Kindem, too, will soon leave the neighborhood: his adult children have finally convinced him to give up the house and move with his ill wife to a senior home."

(Daily News)