Two lifelong friends are getting to know each other again in Alaska.

Sandy Ertel and Sayward Starke became friends after they met in grade school and were almost inseparable until they went away to college.

They met on the bus and lived next to each other near New Point. Ertel studied criminal psychology at Purdue University and Starke transferred to a college in Sitka, Alaska. After being apart for three years, the two women are living and working together again.

“It’s like making another new friend, except I already knew her,” Ertel said. “We really missed each other.”

Starke and Ertel share an apartment and work at the same bar on the weekends. They also play softball and basketball together, just like they did at North Decatur high school. As teenagers, the two girls helped win the softball regional championship in 1998 and just recently won the Sitka Mudball tournament. The two players were also named all-tournament team players and competed in tournaments in Canada.

“We always loved playing together,” Ertel said.

“We like to have fun, but we want to win too.”

Ertel arrived in Sitka after graduating from Purdue in May, and planned to stay until Christmas. But now, she has a boyfriend and plans on leaving next spring, although she’ll still be visiting Decatur County for three weeks during the holidays.

“I just didn’t know what I wanted to do, because I wasn’t ready for a career or graduate school,” Ertel said. “I thought about going to Europe, but Alaska is just as cool and I already have a friend here.”

However, she does still get homesick occasionally, like now, when the leaves are changing colors. In Alaska, most of the trees are evergreens.

“I miss the Indiana fall season,” Ertel said.

The brutal winter season is starting to set in, with lots of rain and shorter periods of sun shine. Eventually, the sun will only be up for a few hours during the middle of the day.

“That could be a little depressing,” Ertel said. “When I got up this morning, it was just pouring rain.”

It’s been a long journey from Decatur County to Sitka, Alaska, but Ertel and Starke made the trip together and renewed their relationship in the process.

“We weren’t ready to just let our friendship die,” Ertel said. “We’re real close because we have a similar personality and sense of humor.”

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