Out-of-state pen pals celebrate birthdays in Port Orchard

Heidi Yates (left) of Chandler, Ariz., and Tina Englebarts (right) of New Prague, Minn., attended the first-ever Chocolate Festival Ball last Friday. - Dannie Oliveaux/Staff Photo
Heidi Yates (left) of Chandler, Ariz., and Tina Englebarts (right) of New Prague, Minn., attended the first-ever Chocolate Festival Ball last Friday.
— image credit: Dannie Oliveaux/Staff Photo

Tina Engelbarts and Heidi Yates have been friends for five years. Last weekend, both women arrived in Port Orchard to celebrate their birthdays in Port Orchard.

Engelbarts, a New Prague, Minn., resident and Yates, a resident of Chandler, Ariz., began writing as pen pals five years ago. Yates is a artist and is doing illustration for children’s books, while Engelbarts works as a agent for Sprint.

“We became pen pals, but we met a year after we started writing,” Yates said.

The two women became pen pals after Yates’ husband signed her up to a website that connects people looking for pen pals.

“At the time, my best friend had recently passed away due to a sudden complication during child birth,” said Yates, a mother of three. “Also, my husband and I had moved from Oregon to Arizona. It was a difficult time. My husband knew I liked to write letters more than chat, so it was his way of opening a possibility of making a new friend. I was skeptical and had no idea of the wonderful, long lasting friendship I would make with Tina as a result.

Coming to Port Orchard was no accident. Both women arrived at SeaTac Airport last Friday to celebrate their birthdays. Engelbarts’ birthday was Oct. 7 and Yates’ birthday is Nov. 24.

Engelbarts said she’s a big fan of Port Orchard best-selling author Debbie Macomber and has watched Macomber’s “Cedar Cove” television series on the Hallmark Channel.

“We’re discussing a place to go and celebrate our birthdays,” Engelbarts said. “I knew Cedar Cove was based in Port Orchard and that’s what got us here. We were trying to figure out a date to come and find when something was happening. We both love chocolate and the Chocolate Festival brought us here.”

Yates said this was her second trip to Washington.

“Port Orchard is lovely and beautiful,” Engelbarts said.

Both women, who stayed at the Cedar Cove Inn, attended the first-ever Fathoms o’ Fun Chocolate Festival Ball last Friday and the festival on Saturday.

“We’ve have a beautiful view from the inn,” Yates said.

On Saturday, Engelbarts and Yates attended a book signing by Macomber at the Fred Meyer store in Port Orchard. They were able to meet the best-selling author and have photographs taken with her.

Sunday found the women taking the ferry from Bremerton to Seattle, before they made their way back home on Monday.

Both women said they would recommend Port Orchard to their friends and they also plan to come back for another trip.

“It was a fabulous weekend,” Yates said. “Port Orchard was the perfect destination and we enjoyed every minute of it. It’s definitely a town we will recommend as a vacation spot and we look forward to returning again.”


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