As told by Sandy Kelley, Landings resident
Submitted by Dee Ricapito
It was 1967 and those were the days when it was very likely you would be drafted as the U.S. became more involved in the Vietnam War.
John Kelley was from Binghamton, New York. Tom Giardina was from Lexington, Kentucky. Both wanted to fly airplanes and enlisted in the navy.
They met at flight training school in Pensacola, Florida. They were roommates and became very good friends. They trained hard and partied hard which resulted in a great friendship.
John was trained on prop planes and Tom trained on jet planes. Eventually Tom would go on to be stationed in the Mediterranean flying fighter planes off aircraft carriers. John left pilot training and was sent to Vietnam to manage an officer’s club. They kept in touch. Tom became a career naval officer and John returned to civilian life. They kept in touch. Both developed a passion for sailing and Tom joined John on sailing trips in the Caribbean and Lake Ontario.
But as it happens in life, the years went by and eventually they lost touch. John moved several times and ended up in Florida at The Landings. Tom retired from the navy and cruised for three years on his sailboat. They both tried to find each other without success. Tom even searched the obituaries for his long lost friend. John always wondered what became of his old friend.
Then one day (this is the part that gives me goosebumps) John was walking off the court at The Landings after playing tennis. He saw Bonnie Cummings watching her grandson, Jeffrey, play and went over to say hi. Bonnie and John talked for a few minutes then she introduced him to an old friend of hers who she and Andre worked with at the Navy Department in Washington, D.C. His name was Tom… After a few seconds Tom jumped out of his chair ran over to John threw his arms around him and shouted – “It’s John Kelley!” (A few expletives have been omitted since this is a family newspaper).
It took several seconds for John to comprehend that this was his old buddy from the navy who he hadn’t seen for over 25 years.
Needless to say they spent time together over the next few days reminiscing about the good old days and catching up on their lives since they were last together.
Tom and his wife Dana had visited Bonnie and Andre a few years before at The Landings unknown to either John or Tom that they were that close to reuniting. Tom lives near Jacksonville, Florida now and so does John’s grandson. Hopefully they will be able to connect again in the future.
So miracles do happen. What are the odds? This one had a happy ending.