The American WWII Veteran Who Befriended The Toddler Next Door – The Pair Became An Online Sensation

Erling Kindem, a World War II veteran from Farmington, Minnesota, became an internet sensation when he developed a friendship with the toddler that lived next door. Emmett Rychner was three years old when stories of the two racing tractors or riding bicycles together began circulating on the internet.

Erling Kindem moved to a nursing home, and young Emmett’s family moved to a nearby town in 2014. Kindem said that he teared up saying goodbye to his friend.  The two still met for special occasions, such as Kindem’s 90th birthday party. Sadly, Erling Kindem died from heart failure in October 2016 after five months in hospice care, ABC News reported. He was 91.

Emmett, who is almost six years old now, had a chance to visit and say goodbye to his friend two days before he died. Emmett read the Lord’s Prayer to Erling Kindem.

“Emmett was the only kid on the block.  There weren’t any other kids, so he would come over and knock on Dad’s door,” said Erling Kindem’s son, Charlie, who is 67.  “And he would say, ‘Can Erling come out and play?'”

Erling Kindem had a John Deere riding mower and Emmett had a little electric John Deere of his own. Erling Kindem would challenge Emmett to a race. The heartwarming videos of their friendship struck a chord with internet users, and the pair became somewhat famous in the online community.

Erling Kindem served 29 combat missions, and must have seen some grim things, but what people remember about him is his kindness.

We’ve included this video of the pair from USA Today’s YouTube Channel. How cute is this!

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE