American woman finds long-lost friend Joe in Wellington after 18 years
'It's go time, it's Joe time!" Lissa Carlino's husband Aaron called out to her in excitement, as he saw Joe Wareham making his way up the stairs.
Carlino, originally from Minnesota, had been waiting nervously for this moment for a long time.
It had been almost twenty years since Carlino had seen her old friend Joe, and she's been blogging for the last two years about her search for him.
But on Friday morning, after a newspaper article led to them connecting, they arranged to meet at the Mount Victoria lookout.
Dressed in black t-shirt and jeans, Wareham reached the top of the lookout just on time, where he spotted Carlino waiting and gave her a big hug.
He admitted he had known about her blog since December, he just felt shy and didn't know quite know what to think.
"I wasn't upset but I was pretty surprised. I thought I should probably contact her and I kind of kept putting it off."
He said seeing her again, albeit in strange circumstances, was great.
"I'm pleased we caught up. I'll give her my number, hopefully her husband isn't looking," he joked.
The pair had sparked a friendship in San Francisco in 1998, with Wareham giving Carlino an inscribed copy of New Zealand book The Bone People before they parted and later lost touch.
When Carlino moved to Wellington 2 1/2 years ago, she wanted to reach out to her old friend, but didn't have his contact details, and couldn't remember his surname.
Initially Carlino believed Joe's surname was Wellington, she remembered teasing him about being Joe Wellington from Wellington.
But after calling every 'J Wellington' in the phonebook and being rebutted, she wasn't so sure.
Instead of giving up on the search, she started the blog, called Where is Joe Wellington.
She spent two years of blogging her search, which included Ancestry.com searches, disappointing phone calls, and 'awkward' interactions after false sightings in the street.
Finally it was a news story about her blog, published on Thursday, that led her to finding her old friend.
"I had a lot of good tips come through from the article. A friend of his contacted me first and said Joe knew I was looking for him," Carlino said.
"I got a proper name and an email for him and here we are."
For her, the meeting brought closure to nearly two years of wondering what had become of Joe.
"It's obviously awkward, but it's very cool...it was a really cool time back then and to finally meet him is surreal."
She said Wareham still had the kind eyes she remembered from all those years ago.
Aaron, who also came to meet Joe, said he was really happy for his wife, finding Joe.
He'd been a big help on the adventure of trying to find her old buddy, to the point of chasing random people in the street just to ask if their names were Joe.
"We've been acting like he'd this elusive person, but he's been here the whole time," he said.
Asked what Carlino would do with her Where is Joe Wellington blog, Carlino said she wasn't sure.
"I guess I'll write about something else? Apparently someone is looking for John Auckland."