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Unlikely friends: WWII vet, preschool neighbor bid farewell

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A bond that started over tomatoes grew into an unlikely friendship between an 89-year-old man and his 3-year-old neighbor.

The story of Erling Kindem, a World War II veteran, and young Emmett Rychner, has gone viral, and now the friends are saying goodbye.

Emmett's family is moving from their Farmington, Minnesota, home to nearby Northfield Monday. Kindem is moving with his ailing wife to a retirement center next month.

KARE 11's Boyd Huppert first did the story at the beginning of July, and it was quickly picked up by national media outlets including the Huffington Post, CNN, the New York Daily News, celebrity gossip blog Perez Hilton, and, on Monday, ABC's Good Morning America did the story of the friends' farewell.

The Rychners had little interaction with their neighbor for the first 10 years they lived in their home, until last year when Emmett, just 2 years old at the time, paid Kindem a visit.

"They kind of bonded over the tomatoes in his garden," Ankia Rychner, Emmett's mother, told KARE 11. "Because Emmett loves tomatoes."

The two quickly became friends. They have matching green lawn mowers, which they'd race in their yards, and they'd ride bicycles together. Kindem even taught Emmett how to fix a bike and how to throw a baseball. And Kindem would surprise Emmett when he'd get up from his naps, one day with a croquet set.

"[Kindem's] patience is unbelievable," Bryan Rychner, Emmett's dad, told KARE 11."He sees Emmett outside playing, he'll find a reason to go outside."

Now, the two friends are saying goodbye. A teary-eyed Kindem told ABC News this week, "It's going to be tough."

“He was in my yard yesterday and I asked him: 'Emmett, you are moving pretty soon right?’” Kindem told ABC News. "And he said, 'Yeah, we won’t be seeing each other again.' It made me cry.”

Kindem's retirement community will be about 30 minutes away from Emmett's new home. But the two will still get to see each other on occasion – Kindem told ABC News he's going to Emmett's birthday party in October.

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