- Associated Press - Saturday, May 31, 2014

FREMONT, Neb. (AP) - Twice a year a card goes out, sent from one friend to another.

It’s the same card, sent every year for 37 years.

On the back of the front page of the card and on the back of the card itself are written the dates the card has been sent. When those spaces were filled, additional sheets were pasted on to keep track of the dates of its journeys.

But it’s always the same dates.

The Fremont Tribune reports (https://bit.ly/1mGj7tZ ), it doesn’t travel far, just within the city limits. The card is no longer entrusted to the United States Postal Service.

It is hand delivered from one house to the other. It has become too precious to lose.

It is a silly, non-pretentious 25-cent birthday card, a fact proudly stated on the front. But the card has come to symbolize something of much greater value than 25 cents.

It is a symbol of an enduring friendship between two families. When Dean Baugh’s birthday arrives, Bob Thornburg gets it to him. It returns to him on his birthday.

Dean Baugh and Bob Thornburg met in 1962.

They were sophomores at Fremont High School. Dean had moved to Fremont in 1960. Bob grew up here.

Their friendship is chronicled in the photographs they keep. There is one of the men in 1967. Thornburg is home on leave from a tour of duty with the United States Navy. He had spent 15 months in Morocco and was on his way to his next tour of duty in Sinop, Turkey. Thornburg is the one in Bermuda shorts and Baugh is in khakis. They are standing in the front yard of Thornburg’s parents’ house on East First Street.

It wasn’t long after that the women came into their lives. Dean and Janie Baugh dated for more than five years before they married. Not so with the Thornburgs.

“We dated for three and a half months before we married,” said Eileen. “When I met Janie, the first thing she asked me was, ‘Do you like to eat?’ I said, ‘yes.’ Then Janie said, ‘We’re going to get along.’”

And get along they did. Throughout the years other couples have become part of their group. They hang out regularly with the Weaklends, the Gottschs, Finleys and Sawtelles, but there is a core of friendship between the Baughs and the Thornburgs.

The annual Christmas parties are now held at the Thornburgs and often include a batch of grandchildren. There was one New Year’s when the Thornburgs hosted the party. It was December 1974, the year the Thornburg’s son, Brock, was due to arrive. Otherwise the six couples go out and celebrate together. Through the year, its trips and dinners out that bring them together.

For many years, Cornhusker football was one of the mainstays of the men’s friendship. The men bought individual Nebraska home game football tickets a few days apart in 1973.

“He went down on Monday and I went down on to get mine on Wednesday. They happened to be close together,” Thornburg said.

The couples followed the team to away games. They were in Miami for the championship game in 1971. The new plan is to go to Chicago to watch Nebraska when they play Northwestern and the next year travel to Minneapolis to watch the team play Minnesota. They have the years ahead filled with plans.

Both couples love to dance.

“The best dance I can ever remember was when Bob danced with Ora Stewart, Janie Baugh’s mother. It was in 1984 at the Eagles, Thornburg said.

“It was a snowy evening and she had on big black rubber boots over her shoes,” continued Eileen Thornburg. “Bob took her out on the dance floor and they danced and we giggled. She loved to dance. It was so much fun.”

Their friendship thrives on shared memories. Dean had become famous in their group for his pies, sour cream raisin and blackberry cherry, and his strawberry ice cream.

And, “Bob can fix anything,” Janie Baugh said.

There are four new knees in the group. All had the same surgeon and report that the knees are working great.

“When he got done with us, the surgeon retired,” Bob Thornburg quipped. “And we’re still dancing.”

The men look forward to their 50-year high school class reunion coming up this year.

Bob Thornburg is retired from full-time work. He drives the courtesy car for the Sid Dillon dealerships a couple of times a week. Janie Baugh continues her work as an independent hair stylist. Dean Baugh works in Omaha for a hotel chain and Eileen Thornburg works part time as a service associate for a financial adviser.

It’s the kind of friendship that doesn’t need to depend on a birthday card to keep it going. The women joke that the men really don’t have a lot to do when it comes to this tradition.

“I brought it over late at night and stuck it in the door,” Dean Baugh counters.

They have shared new babies, now new grand babies, illnesses, deaths, and prayers. Stuff you can’t buy with a 25-cent card.

When Eileen Thornburg told Janie Baugh about the story, her first reaction was a panicked, “where’s the card?” Several days that story is revisited with laughs and good natured teasing - the stuff of a well-cared for friendship.


Information from: Fremont Tribune, https://www.fremontneb.com

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