email@example.comIn 1971, 11 women moved onto the same floor in a dormitory at Ohio University, unknowingly about to become friends, teammates and each other’s biggest fans for the next 42 years.The group first played together on an intramural broomball team – winning the campus championship, they’ll have you know – and spent countless hours at the Cat’s Den, a bar in Athens, Ohio.There were no cellphones, computers or co-ed dorms, so the women spent plenty of time with each other.“It was another era. Everybody just left their doors open,” said Virginia Popovich, ringleader of the group and a real estate agent for Keller Williams Realty who lives in south Charlotte. The women had to lean on each other for support – something they continue 42 years later. “It goes back to the early years; we had to depend on each other,” Popovich said. “(The friendship) has gotten stronger since we’ve gotten older.”“We had fun from the very beginning,” said Cindi Krebs, a retired information technology manager who lives in south Charlotte. “We bummed cigarettes off each other, played a lot of euchre, and we drank together.“We don’t smoke anymore, but we definitely still drink and play a lot of cards.”As the years passed, the women say that, despite being separated by states and different circumstances, they became better friends, reuniting at Ohio University’s homecoming for years, and later on weeklong vacations, which they have continued to take for the past 20 years.Though they are separated by hundreds of miles – six live in Cleveland, three in Charlotte, one in Colorado and one in New York – they still make time for one another. The women reunited recently at Popovich’s house in south Charlotte before vacationing in Hilton Head for a week, in part to celebrate their 60th birthdays, which they all had this year.The annual vacations began at Kiawah Island. The women often go to North Carolina beaches, but they also have traveled throughout the country. The friends say making the effort to spend time together is key to maintaining a friendship with such a big group.“You have to work at it; you have to make the effort,” said Mary Lynn Hope, a teacher who lives in Cleveland. “Whether it is phone calls or emails, making the effort to stay connected is important.”In addition, the women refuse to discuss politics or religion, which likely has prevented some fighting, they say.The friends say they are not sure what has held the group together. “Something that you couldn’t describe that has clicked with us,” Hope said. The women say they have supported each other through it all major life-events, from weddings, birthdays and the birth of grandchildren to the deaths of parents and siblings. “The highlights of my life have been when they all showed up,” said Julie Cole, a retired LPGA golf professional who lives in south Charlotte. When Cole was inducted into Ohio University’s Hall of Fame in 2010, the entire group came to Athens to cheer her on.The women said they feel refreshed after spending the weeklong vacations together. “You feel like you’ve reversed the 42 years,” Hope said. “There’s comfort in knowing that you can be yourself,” Cole added.They say the strong friendship often is met with envy by their husbands and children. “When we tell people we have these 11 friends, they’re amazed,” said Chris Maistros, a teacher who lives in Cleveland. “There’s a great deal of admiration and pride that we have in one another.“We’re proud of each other, and there to bolster each other.”
Friday, Jul. 12, 2013
Three Charlotte women among group of lifelong friends
Albright: 704-358-5353; Twitter:@amanda_albright
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