FARMINGTON, Minn. – A World War II veteran whose heartwarming friendship with his young neighbor inspired so many on the internet, died over the weekend, according to ABC News.
Emmett Rychner, 6, said a final goodbye last week to Erling Kindem, who died Saturday at the age of 91. Erling gave his young pal some words of advice, “Listen to your mother and dad because they’re going to give you the best advice they can.”
Erling squeezed Emmett’s hand, gave him a hug, and said one last thing before Emmett left that day, “You’re a good boy,” according to KARE.
The two met when Emmett was just 3 years old, and the story of their fast friendship went viral.
For nearly 10 years, Emmett’s parents Bryan and Anika Rychner had little interaction with the 89-year-old man next door, a World War II veteran who flew combat missions in Europe. That all changed when 3-year-old Emmett paid Erling a visit and they bonded over tomatoes, according to a report from KARE.
Their friendship grew over the next few months as they spent time racing lawn mowers, playing croquet and fixing bicycles.
Emmett’s mother wondered if their friendship would survive the harsh Minnesota winter.
“I was in the kitchen and I heard the snow blower going, sounds like Erling is really close to the house,” she told KARE. “I opened the window and he was snow-blowing a path from his back door to our back door.”
Two years ago, Emmett’s parents decided they would put their house up for sale as they searched for a home that would suit their growing family. A “sold” sign soon followed, and Emmett had to move away from Erling.
As it turned out, Erling also had some big news. With his 90th birthday quickly approaching, his children convinced him to leave his home and move with his ailing wife into a senior apartment.
Erling, who was recently moved to hospice care, died of heart failure, his son, Charlie Kindem, told ABC News.
“He just made friends with everybody,” Kindem said. “He had all kinds of friends.”