Emmett returns for Erling's 90th birthday

Emmett returns for Erling's 90th birthday (Image 1)
Emmett returns for Erling's 90th birthday (Image 1) (Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

BURNSVILLE, Minn. (KARE 11) – Erling


celebrated his 90th birthday Sunday with his four-year-old pal Emmett by his side.

"Happy Birthday Erling," said the preschooler as he hugged the WWII vet.

The friendship that became an internet sensation in the summer of 2014 is still going strong.

When America first met Emmett and Erling, they were next door neighbors sharing lawnmower races and backyard croquet matches, despite an age difference of 86 years.

Soon after, Emmett moved to a house in the country and Erling to a retirement community.

Sunday, as family members gathered to toast Erling on his birthday, Emmett, his parents and younger sister, were among the invited guests.

"It is very special," Emmett's mom, Anika Rychner, said of her son's relationship with Erling.

Anika and her husband Bryan have made regular trips to Erling's apartment since the moves, where the two friends have taken rides in the elevator and competed in foot races across the basement parking garage.

Still, it's not the same as being next door.

"He misses Emmett," says Erling's wife Joyce.

As the guests broke into song, Emmett stood up front, leading the birthday song - with an extra "cha-cha-cha" at the end.

Emmett then presented Erling with two packages, each containing a set of dog tags the friends could wear together.

Engraved on the tags: "Emmett & Erling" and "Friends Forever" in Norwegian, which Erling learned as a boy.

Another hug and "Happy Birthday" from Emmett and the preschooler was on his way home for his afternoon nap.

"You come back again," Erling told him as he headed for the door.

Emmett turned and looked back. "I will eventually," he said.