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It’s a small world after all

Friends rekindle ties years later at Ashby Ponds

Created date

July 26th, 2011

In 1958, nine years after entering the Foreign Service, Jim Leonard found himself in Taipei, Nationalist China, working as a Chinese language officer. During these early days of a distinguished career that most notably includes his work as the Deputy U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations and deputy special representative for Middle East peace negotiations, Jim worked diligently to master the Mandarin language. Our classes were intense, he says. The main rule in class was that no one could speak English. We spent six hours a day imitating our teacher and then studying at night. I was fortunate because my teacher, Jane Ouyang, was very good. She was demanding and consistent, but that helped us because we were learning a very tonal language. Not long after his language studies were complete, Jane left the chaos her native China was experiencing under the leadership of Mao Zedong for a new life in the U.S. We lost touch for a while, says Jim. But we soon learned that she had come to the U.S. and was working at the State Department. Over the years, Jim and Jane, who wed American Jack Newell, would see each other at various social functions. The experience of the foreign language classes bonds you almost like a fraternity, says Jims. We would get together several times a year to see old friends and meet new ones.


Now, almost 50 years after their first meeting, as the result of a random act of coincidence, Jim and Jane enjoy the opportunity to see each other several times a week. Unbeknownst to each other, the two chose to move toAshby Ponds, an Erickson Living communityin Ashburn, Va. My wife, Eleanor, and I were attending an informational meeting regarding Ashby Ponds when I noticed that Jane and Jack were also in attendance, says Jim. The two began talking and soon discovered they had both already reserved apartment homes at Ashby Ponds. Even more remarkable was the fact that they had chosen homes directly one floor above the other. As a result of this remarkable coincidence, Jim and Jane are able to spend more time together now than they ever did, save their time together in Taipei. Together with their spouses they make a point to see each other at least once a week and dine together a few times a month. It s been wonderful to build upon a friendship that was started so many years ago, says Jim.

Reestablishing ties

As unique as Jim and Jane s story is, it is not the only through the years connection that has been rekindled at Ashby Ponds. Two months after her June 2009 move to Ashby Ponds, Mary Means was racing to catch up with a helpful staff member when she recognized Irene Boublik, one of her former classmates at Middlebury College in Vermont, where the two attended school together over 40 years before. I couldn t believe it, says Mary. I walked right up to her and said hello. Believe it or not, Irene had just completed the paperwork for her new home and was headed there when I saw her. It was quite a surprise, says Irene. Since we both met our husbands at Middlebury College and both moved to Washington, D.C., after graduation, we frequently saw each other through the years at alumni events. However, as we got older, life got busier and we saw each other less and less. More recently, we only kept in touch through our yearly Christmas cards. So, suffice it to say, when I saw Mary I was first surprised and then thrilled. She undoubtedly made the move to my new home even easier for me.

New territory for old friends

Now the two friends make a point to meet at weekly happy hours and to dine together when their schedules allow. It s funny how life works, says Mary. True friendships are able to survive many things even 40 years!