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Look no farther than the friendship between Peppermint Patty and Marcie, or Charlie Brown and Linus, to recognize the value of someone having your back.

A new exhibit in the Comic Strip Rotation Gallery at the Charles M. Schulz Museum explores the friendships between Peanuts characters who, despite occasional shortcomings, are always there for one another.

“A Friendship Like Ours” showcases “the level of compassion, sweetness and love that Schulz captured within the panel, time and time again, in the form of friendship,” the museum’s in-house exhibitions manager, Lauren Faulkner, wrote in an email. “In the end, amidst bouts of disagreement and unrequited love, rainy days and sports games lost, the Peanuts Gang always found that they could count on each other.”

Schulz, Faulkner noted, found inspiration for the theme of friendship in his own memories of his youth in St. Paul, Minnesota and “also in bearing witness to the interactions of those around him throughout his life and career.”

The exhibit, running through Nov. 6, includes 69 original comic strips, original sketches and Peanuts ephemera.

The museum is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays (closed Tuesdays until Memorial Day) and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends, closed major holidays, at 2301 Hardies Lane, Santa Rosa.

Admission is $12 adults, $8 seniors 62 and older, $5 youth 4-18, free for kids 3 and younger.

For more information, call 707-579-4452 or visit schulzmuseum.org.


Friendships evolve in workplaces, at school, in sports leagues and clubs. For Willie Swanson of Sebastopol, friendships also are found at sea.

Swanson, an active and engaging 94-year-old, became fast friends with two fellow passengers on a cruise ship headed to the Panama Canal in 2002. Today the trio is inseparable, just like the Peanuts Gang.

Charlie Brown and his pals may be comic strip characters, but their beloved creator, Charles M. Schulz, wove the theme of friendship throughout his long-running strip.

(Visitors to the Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa can peek at Schulz’s tribute to friendship in the new exhibit, “A Friendship Like Ours,” that continues through Nov. 6.)

Swanson and her friends, like Snoopy and Woodstock, know that having a close friend — or two — can make the world a happier place, through turmoil and triumph, setbacks and celebration.

“We count our blessings every time we’re together,” Swanson said of her treasured friends, Martha Noyes, 97, and Gig Ingebretson, 75. “We’re blessed we found each other.”

The women travel together, taking trips nearly every year. They’ve gone to Hawaii, Alaska and Branson, Missouri, to Spain, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and especially enjoy repeated cruises along the California coast to Mexico.

Their friendship continues six times a year when they gather at Swanson’s home among the towering redwoods in rural Sebastopol. Noyes and Ingebretson come from their homes in Fremont for three relaxing days of fun and togetherness.

“I can’t wait for them to come,” Swanson said, “and when they have to go home I say, ‘Can’t you stay just a little bit longer?’ ”

Late on a recent morning, they each sported cozy, zip-front, “onesie” fleece nightwear Ingebretson bought for the trio for Christmas. They’d slept in a bit, after staying up past 11 p.m. the previous night.

Their two-night, three-day slumber parties center around conversation and camaraderie, with the women rarely leaving Swanson’s house.

“We eat, we sleep and we play,” Noyes said. Added Swanson, “We don’t have time to go anywhere.”

They gather around the dining room table for lively games of Scrabble and Mexican Train, a version of dominoes, keeping score but helping one another, too.

The conversations are endless, often marked by laughter. They catch up on their busy lives, their families, their achievements and, at times, their sorrows. They’ve all known losses; each woman has lost a son as well as other loved ones.

The friends share a positive outlook, an ability to move ahead in their lives and a genuine sense of appreciation and gratitude for their many good fortunes.

“As you get older, your friends mean more to you as you go along,” Swanson said. “Your family and your friends, that’s where it’s at. Your friends end up like family.”

“That’s good,” Noyes said.

“Yes,” Ingebretson said, “that’s good.”

Noyes needs only one word to describe their friendship. “Precious,” she said. “I like that word.”

She marvels that they’ve never once had a dispute, even when all three shared a cabin in a rather confined space aboard a cruise ship.

“After all these years, we’ve never had a quarrel,” Noyes said. “We stay away from politics and religion. We don’t talk about that.”

Look no farther than the friendship between Peppermint Patty and Marcie, or Charlie Brown and Linus, to recognize the value of someone having your back.

A new exhibit in the Comic Strip Rotation Gallery at the Charles M. Schulz Museum explores the friendships between Peanuts characters who, despite occasional shortcomings, are always there for one another.

“A Friendship Like Ours” showcases “the level of compassion, sweetness and love that Schulz captured within the panel, time and time again, in the form of friendship,” the museum’s in-house exhibitions manager, Lauren Faulkner, wrote in an email. “In the end, amidst bouts of disagreement and unrequited love, rainy days and sports games lost, the Peanuts Gang always found that they could count on each other.”

Schulz, Faulkner noted, found inspiration for the theme of friendship in his own memories of his youth in St. Paul, Minnesota and “also in bearing witness to the interactions of those around him throughout his life and career.”

The exhibit, running through Nov. 6, includes 69 original comic strips, original sketches and Peanuts ephemera.

The museum is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays (closed Tuesdays until Memorial Day) and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends, closed major holidays, at 2301 Hardies Lane, Santa Rosa.

Admission is $12 adults, $8 seniors 62 and older, $5 youth 4-18, free for kids 3 and younger.

For more information, call 707-579-4452 or visit schulzmuseum.org.

Ingebretson, some 20 years younger than her friends, says age is irrelevant in the bond of friendship.

“We’re more like sisters than anything else. When we’re together, it’s like the age difference disappears,” she said. “It’s just being together. It’s so fulfilling just to be together.”

She and Noyes met through church at a women’s retreat nearly 45 years ago. When Swanson filled in for someone who couldn’t make the Panama Canal cruise, the duo turned into a trio. They bonded while playing games at sea, a pastime that’s carried their friendship ever since.

“We’re better as three,” Ingebretson said. “We’re best as three.”

As their friendships have grown, they’ve often lost track of game scores and strategies.

“We’d forget whose turn it was and get into our conversations,” Swanson said. “I like that we share stories, and sometimes I get carried away on something. They listen to me, and I listen to them.”

Each is quick to point out the other’s talents.

Noyes, just 2½ years shy of her centennial year, is dedicated to handwritten correspondence, keeping in touch with sentimental cards and letters; she does not use email. She is an ace with the daily crossword, and her friends say her warm personality makes her popular with everyone at her assisted-living facility.

Swanson is especially creative, decorating crosses, birdhouses and “wish boxes” with colorful mosaics. She makes hanging willow hoop “dreamcatchers” and handcrafts jewelry from beads and charms, offering many pieces as fundraisers for charities like the American Cancer Society. She’s also a much-appreciated go-fer at her daughter’s physical therapy practice in Sebastopol.

Ingebretson is a volunteer mentor for her community’s Mothers of Preschoolers program and delivers food for Meals on Wheels with her husband, Rob, who is especially supportive of his wife’s time with her special friends — and even has traveled with the women on occasion.

“He loves them as much as I do,” Ingebretson said.

She enjoys tennis and kayaking and comes from a family of accomplished athletes. Ingebretson’s father played football for the Chicago Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles and her mother earned a bronze medal in diving at the 1932 Summer Olympics.

“I think we’ve all had interesting lives,” Swanson said.

From raising their families to holding jobs to negotiating life’s ins and outs and ups and downs, the women agree it’s much easier when friends understand, offer support and care about you.

“You have more meaningful friends as you get older,” Swanson said.

The trio is grateful they all met.

“It was fate,” Swanson said.

“And God. God and faith,” added Noyes.

“It was a gift,” Ingebretson said.

Contact Towns Correspondent Dianne Reber Hart at sonomatowns@gmail.com.