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Note: This story is an update to “When The Sun Came Out,” which originally aired on March 18, 2017.
Almost three years ago, Dan Peterson, 84, found an unlikely friend in Norah Wood, 6.
Today, their friendship remains strong. Norah still visits Mr. Dan every Sunday with her mom Tara, 46, and her sister Marigold, 3.
“He’s funny,” Norah says. “I get to draw. I get to do puzzles and he’s really sweet. I like when he tells me about his childhood — when he was little.”
Mr. Dan adores Norah and her sister.
“It’s still a great pleasure to me when those children come over,” he says. “It’s really really done wonders for me.”
During their visits, Norah helps herself to Dan’s belongings. “They just come in and take over the place and help themselves to his candy,” says Tara. “He’s always got treats and danishes. … He’s tickled they feel so comfortable.”
Tara likes spending time with Dan, too. She says she’s learned so much more about him over the past couple of years, like how he’s a brilliant mathematician who’s taught in at least three universities and that he used to fly airplanes.
“He's absolutely one of the most interesting people I’ve ever known in my entire life,” Tara says. “I truly enjoy spending time with him. He’s become one of my dearest friends.”
Dan continues to share his love of gardening with Norah. About a year ago, she brought over some watermelon seeds that her grandfather gave her and gave them to Mr. Dan to plant. At first, he wasn’t sure they would actually grow, but she was insistent.
“I thought they were too old to germinate,” Dan says. “Now, believe it or not, I have eight watermelon plants. Norah will be able to watch them grow into some big plants.”
Lots of people have reached out to Dan since the story aired. He’s received letters from all over the globe. In fact, he put up a world map on his wall so that he and Norah can track where each of them came from.
Mr. Dan has three children of his own, as well as five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. His oldest daughter, 61, lives in Florida. She’s met Tara and Norah while visiting her father. Mr. Dan says his daughter is thrilled he’s found such a deep and lasting friendship.
Tara mainly attributes Norah’s initial eagerness to befriend Mr. Dan to her daughter’s innate empathy. At the same time, she always strives to set a good example for all seven of her children. She wants to raise thoughtful kids.
“It's just always been important for me that they notice other people around them," says Tara. "Whether it’s someone reaching for something on a high shelf at the grocery store or the mailman who could use a bottle of water because it’s scorching hot outside. It’s important to me for my kids to not let people be invisible.”
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