4-H trip creates forever friendship

By Shelby Harrell | Aug 23, 2013
Photo by: Donated photo Bill Teague, 15, and Alan Forristall, 13, stand in front of a Haywood County 4-H Exchange bus during the summer of 1968, when the two boys first met.

Bill Teague couldn’t believe how easy it was to catch up with his childhood friend Alan Forristall after not seeing him in more than 40 years.

The two men, who met as teenagers during a summer 4-H exchange trip, were reunited about three weeks ago in Princeton, Illinois — the first place they ever met. Teague, who grew up in Fines Creek, had traveled to Forristall’s small hometown in Illinois to meet other 4-H groups. Forty-three years later, the two are still making plans to meet up.

“It was uncomfortable for a minute, but then when we shook hands and saw each other — it was like seeing an old high school friend,” Teague said. “It was like looking at our parents. We look just like our parents. I still recognize his face, and really his personality is a lot like it used to be.”

“In 13 seconds we were back to where we were in high school,” Forristall agreed. “It’s kind of like we just picked up a conversation from many years ago when we left off. He’s the same person he was after all these years.”

Teague, and avid Green Bay Packers fan and an owner of one share of stock, recently decided to visit Chicago to attend a stockholders meeting. While he was visiting with his wife, he was able to reconnect with Forristall, sparking a reunion that was 43 years past due.

Once the first-meeting jitters subsided, Teague and Forristall realized they still had a lot in common.

“We were so much alike, and we still are,” Teague said. “We still live in a small town and we’re still involved in agriculture.”

Teague is now retired after serving 21 years as the general manager of the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville. Forristall just recently was named market president for the Midland States Bank in Princeton.

The two men’s friendship, which had sparked in 1968, carried through to the following summer when Forristall stayed with Teague during another 4-H exchange trip.

“We wrote letters to each other,” Teague said. “There was no cell phone and that kind of stuff. And the next summer, they came and stayed with me in Fines Creek.”

Forristall attributed his and Teague’s bond to the 4-H program they participated in.

“4-H brought us together and gave us a basis for who we are as people,” Forristall said. “It was a great experience and without it, we wouldn’t have ever met.”

Teague concurred, adding that the 4-H program had strengthened their friendship.

“We had that in common — whether you’re in 4-H in North Carolina or not, it taught you leadership skills and made you active. That was the one thing that made the friendship easy,” he said.

Over the years, Teague corresponded with Forristall’s parents via Christmas card, but eventually that fizzled out. Though the friends spent decades apart without communication, the two both say the other hasn’t changed a bit.

“Not a single thing — not even his personality or the way he walked,” Teague said. “I remembered those things. When you see him, I guess you have those kind of memories.”

Now that the duo is keeping in touch via email or Facebook, Forristall and his wife are planning to visit Teague in Waynesville within the next year.

“My wife and I would love to go visit in North Carolina,” Forristall said. “It’s so much more different than the flat lands we live in Illinios. We look forward to seeing them again in the next year.”

Teague said he is glad to have rekindled his friendship with Forristall and hopes to see him again in the near future.

“In today’s world, it’s a lot easier to keep up,” Teague said. “We don’t have to write letters anymore. I think he’ll be a little freer to travel, so I really hope he comes back.”