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Their Nearly 50-Year Friendship Stays Strong Thanks To Simple Gestures

Greg Klatkiewicz and Gary "Zooks" Bezucha seen on one of their regular camping trips in 2019.
Greg Klatkiewicz and Gary "Zooks" Bezucha seen on one of their regular camping trips in 2019.

Editor's note: Diane Bezucha, who co-produced this interview, works for StoryCorps and is the daughter of Gary Bezucha.

Since the beginning, their friendship has grown out of simple gestures. The best friends met when Greg Klatkiewicz, now 71, started bumming cigarettes from Gary "Zooks" Bezucha, 70, on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, where they were both physical therapy students in the 1970s.

Back then, Greg even introduced Gary to his future wife, Janet, a fellow PT student at the college. Together, they were the "the three amigos," said Gary.

On Saturday, it will be five years since Janet's death. She died of cancer at age 64. At StoryCorps last year, Greg and Gary remembered Janet, and some of the many adventures they shared with her. Greg and Gary have taken many canoe and camping trips over the course of their friendship, often joined by Janet and Greg's wife, Deborah.

On those trips, Greg kept daily notes — and they became memories relived when Janet was under hospice care. He read to her from one of his journals about one of their trips. The thoughtfulness of the act moved Gary.

"I don't know if she heard you, but I did," Gary said. "I will never forget that."

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jey Born and Diane Bezucha. NPR's Emma Bowman adapted it for the web.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.

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