Smiles

Boy Says Farewell To His BFF, A 91-Year-Old World War II Vet

The story of this beautiful friendship will bring a tear to your eye.

If we’re lucky, we might have a friendship that spans a generation. And so it was with 6-year-old Emmett Rychner and his friend, 91-year-old World War II veteran Erling Kindem. Here they are racing tractors in the backyard—just a typical thing guys do when they’re hanging out, right?

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Emmett grew up next to Kindem, but the little guy’s family moved to a neighboring Minnesota town a couple of years ago. The unlikely pals stayed in touch, despite the distance. The two families had lived next door to one another for a decade or so, but never really exchanged more than a casual hello—until Emmett was born. When the little boy was 2, he ventured over to Kindem’s backyard, and found the man gardening. Then Emmett spotted Kindem working outside on a new sidewalk, and went out to help with his toy shovel and wheelbarrow (which is what guys do for each other) and that was it—they became BFFs.

“He would also go knock on Erling’s door and ask if Erling could play,” Emmett’s mother, Anika Rychner, told TODAY.

Sadly, Kindem passed away on Oct. 29.

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Emmett, who drew B-24 bomber plane photos for his older buddy, was able to see Kindem for a final goodbye at his nursing home just three days before he passed.

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“After we told Emmett that Erling had passed away, he was very quiet for a while,” Rychner said. “The first thing he said was, ‘So we’ll just have to wait a really long time. I know we’ll see him again in heaven.’”