Terri and Mona

Published in Fall 2015  |  Living away from home and apart from their mothers, two 8-year-old girls bonded in a big way when they met at Methodist Home for Children 48 years ago. Mona and Terri did everything together. They were best friends—strength and sanctuary for each other under some difficult circumstances.

The girls lost touch after they left MHC, and each went on to build her own life. They hadn’t spoken in decades when Mona recognized her friend in Facebook photos posted at an MHC alumni event. “I was clicking through the picnic photos pretty fast, and I was half standing to walk away from my computer when her image made me do a double-take and sit back down,” Mona says.

The two exchanged contact information through the alumni association. That night, Terri called Mona, and they talked until 3 a.m., catching up. “It was as if we had not been apart a single day,” Terri says.

Here are their stories.

Terri Yates | Pittsboro
My brother and I arrived at Methodist Home for Children in the fall of 1967. When I was born in 1959, my mother was 14 years of age, and my father was 19. Jerry was born 15 months later. In 1966, my father went to prison for a violent crime. At the time, my mother was jobless and uneducated. With no strong family ties to help support her, she was unable to care for her children, and soon we found ourselves at MHC. Those days, boys’ and girls’ cottages were separated.

Terri

Jerry

Jerry

I was placed in Jackson cottage and my brother was placed in Massey cottage. Mona arrived at Jackson cottage in 1968. I remember the day she arrived with long blonde hair down to her waist. She appeared a little frightened, and all of the girls were feeling bad for her because our house-parent made us wear short hair. We comforted Mona after her tresses were cut.

Quickly, Mona and I became close friends. We were inseparable while we lived at the home. When MHC started a new program placing brothers and sisters together to create a more homelike environment, Mona and I moved with our siblings to Massey cottage and we made sure we were roommates. We did everything together—that is, until Mona and her siblings got to go home for good. I was very happy for Mona, but I was also feeling sad, even a little lost when she left. I recall that when I went on a weeklong visit to Florida with my mother, I took my allowance and bought gifts that I mailed to her and her brother, along with a letter.

IMG_4193

Mona saved this five-page letter and poem that Terri sent to her as a child.

After that, we lost touch for 44 years. Jerry and I left MHC at Christmas in 1971. Though there were still issues to address, time has a way of working things out.

Eventually, I married and had three sons. They are all grown, operate their own businesses and have blessed me with six beautiful grandchildren. They bring me so much joy. Early in my children’s adolescence, I divorced, but today I am happily married to the most wonderful husband I could ask for. I work now as a wedding and event planner. I never graduated college, but that should soon change. I am currently enrolled at Wake Technical Community College studying web development and design technologies. I am a strong advocate for mental health services and reform and a proponent of the annual Walk for Hope. I also host the mental health advocacy website, LooneyBen.com.

Looking back to my time at MHC, I’ve learned that the smallest gesture of support plants a seed that will one day flourish. I fondly remember the kinship shared by us children. There is an inexplicable bond we all share, and this bond led Mona and me to find each other again. The perseverance we learned at MHC helped us see it through. Life can be hard, but I still believe in happy endings.

Mona Stone | Roanoke Rapids
I arrived at Methodist Home for Children in June 1968 with my sister, Lisa, and my brother, Brett. Our financial and physical circumstances had been desperate for years, and our mother had nowhere else to turn. She had divorced our violent, alcoholic father and struggled to feed and clothe us. Our baby sister, Beth, went to live with our grandparents, and the three of us
went to separate MHC cottages with matronly house-mothers. Everything was strictly structured in my cottage, but I do happily remember playing hopscotch, jacks and pick-up sticks with my new friend, Terri, at Jackson cottage.

This was a time of transition at MHC, and soon some of the older house-mothers were replaced with younger house-parents and siblings were allowed to live in the same cottage. I was excited to move to Massey cottage and I clung to my friend Terri throughout that change. She was mentally strong and she helped me find my own strength. We were the best of friends and roommates. We went to sleep each night listening to Beatles records. We danced, sang, decorated our room and found a kitten that we kept and named “Precious.” The chaplain, Rev. Jim Waggoner, took Terri and me to see The Monkees perform at the State Fair. We did chores together, ate meals together, played piano together, went swimming, roamed the campus and went to Sunday school together. We laughed, cried and rebelled together.

I laugh to myself when I think of the rebellious days. Terri and I both were placed on restriction a few times for back-talking and disobedience. We were finding our voices as we edged toward our teenage years and looking for an outlet for our angst. Our house-parents changed several times during those years. Some of them were young married couples, and I can’t help but wonder if they ever wanted children after going toe to toe with Terri and me and the rest of the cottage!

I dearly missed Terri after we went home in July 1970. It troubled me not knowing how she was and where she was. I hoped she was safe and happy. I thought about her and inquired into her whereabouts many times over the years, but my search went nowhere until I saw an alumni picnic photo posted on Facebook in June. Terri wasn’t identified in the photo, but I knew it was her. It was the best feeling to see her smiling and waving!

It’s been so great to reconnect with Terri and find that we still thoroughly understand and support each other! During one marathon phone session I was amazed at how she “gets me” still, after 44 years. I feel better knowing she is only a phone call or text away!

Life after MHC has been full. My sweet mother happily remarried and found a great career. After high school, I studied marketing at Halifax Community College and later went to a holistic massage school in San Diego, Calif. Therapeutic massage is what I was meant to do, and I’m a licensed massage and bodywork therapist. I have one son and two awesome granddaughters, and I am glad to be a part of their busy, trauma-free young lives.

I’m so grateful to Methodist Home for being there in our time of great need. Finding my precious friend Terri was so important—and re-finding her is a huge, happy and cathartic event in my life.