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Message In Bottle Sparks Friendship

Vintage photos tell us what John Freeland looked like, but maps and letters left behind give us a sense of his passion for travel.   

The adventurous globetrotter's message in a bottle dropped in the water back in 1977 lead the man who found it to John's son, Phil Freeland of Maggie Valley. In retirement, his dad traveled the globe with wife, Mary.

John passed away 17 years ago, but a reminder of him recently resurfaced.
"They went to 100 countries over a 20 year period," Freeland says.

"There it was, right in the open ha ha," says the man who found it, Clint Buffington. He was on a trip in the Turks and Caicos Islands when he stumbled upon that bottle at the beach.

It's a hobby for Clint, who's found about 60 such messages. After months of research, he contacted a newspaper in Winter Haven, Florida.

That led him to John's son Phil and a friendship was born.
"It was exactly the way you describe it. Like the original social network if you wanna call it that," says Buffington.
They've met here in the mountains a couple of times and continue to correspond by phone and email.

Turns out, John Freeland had dozens of pen pals after throwing countless messages in bottles all over the map.

Nearly two decades after his death, he's till bringing people together.


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