Pen Pals Prove That The Art Of Handwriting Is Beautiful And Transformative

The pen pal relationship is unique. Strangers who decide to pick up a pen and piece of paper and communicate the old fashion way often find themselves enthralled with the life of the person they are writing to on a regular basis. These special friends allow us to invite someone else into our world without the worry about how they may react around our friends and family or how they might perceive us through our non-verbal communication skills and ability to hold a conversation in the real world.

These pen pals will remind you that sometimes we just want to share our stories with people who are genuinely interested in what we have to say and how we live our lives.

Pen Pals And A 72 Year Story

Pen Pals And A 72 Year Story

Nona Avery sits down at her desk twice a month and picks up her pen to send a letter to her best friend. The 84-year-old woman has been writing to her pen pal for 72 years. The British woman’s pen pal relationship with Alice Powers from Cincinnati, Ohio started when she was only 12-years-old. Explaining her first letter, Avery says, “It was from a girl called Alice Powers who was also 12 and lived in Cincinnati, Ohio. It sounded really exotic and so far away, almost like another world. The women would share stories about their lives, revealing their first loves, milestones they faced, and other parts of their lives. Both women were married in the 1950s and went on to have a total of five children among their marriages. It wasn’t until 1987 that the women were finally able to meet in England after Alice saved up the money to make the trip.

A Teacher And Her Student

A Teacher And Her Student

Mildred Webinga Freeman was an English teacher at a middle school where she befriended a student right before she took a new job in Florida. The middle schooler was devastated by the sudden change and they exchanged addresses with the goal of becoming pen pals. The student says they could tell their teacher anything and always received sage advice in return. Freeman became a realtor and one day offered her student the opportunity to visit in Florida. The student wrote, “I spent three weeks with her in Miami, thrilled to do anything from washing dishes to touring houses with her. Her love of poetry, music, and creative writing encouraged me to pursue these endeavors.” When the student graduated from high school, her life-long friend was in attendance at her graduation. Freeman eventually passed away after a battle with cancer but her long-time pen pal still remembers her fondly — 50 years later.

Their Pen Pal Story Was Turned Into A Book

Their Pen Pal Story Was Turned Into A Book

The book “I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives,” tells the powerful story of 12-year-old Caitlin, a typical American preteen from Hatfield, PA., and her seventh-grade correspondence with kids across the world. Caitlin picked Zimbabwe and her first letter reached Martin, who lives with his family in a poor suburb of Mutare. The pen pals would spend the next six years writing back and forth. At Caitlin learned about the economic situation in his homeland, she started to send increasingly larger care packages, often containing her own allowance. Her $1 allowance soon turned into $20 bills, enough to pay for Martin’s school fees. Eventually, her family got in on the act, helping Martin find college scholarships in the United States, a gift that eventually brought him to Villanova University and then to Duke University where he earned his MBA. After 18 years, the unlikely pair is still best friends.

Catherine The Great And Voltaire

Catherine The Great And Voltaire

We managed to find a lot of great pen pal stories from everyday people but this one really stands the test of time with some of the world’s most famous people from history. The last Empress of Russia and the French philosopher never met in person but they exchanged letters for more than 15 years. Their correspondence only ended in 1778 because Voltaire died. “I am older, madame, than the city where you reign,” he joked in one of the now famous letters. “I even dare to add that I am older than your empire,” he concluded.

Two Sets Of Twins And Decades Of Letters

Two Sets Of Twins And Decades Of Letters

In 1935, identical twins Dulcie Grose and Nancie Varley started sending letters into a Sydney radio station after radio host “Aunty Val” offered to take those letters to Los Angeles. The sisters were able to connect with identical twins in the United States and 80 years later they are still sending pen pal letters. “I have one very large cardboard carton full of letters and photographs taken over the 80 years,” Ms. Varley said. “It makes for very interesting reading, especially the childhood ones. After 50 years of writing to their pen pals, Barbara and Beatrice, they were finally able to meet. Inspired her mom’s story, Grose’s daughter, Heather Archbold, became a pen pal with Beatrice’s daughter when she was just eight-years-old. The story continues…

A Little Girl Befriended Muhammad Ali

A Little Girl Befriended Muhammad Ali

Stephanie Meade was only 10-years-old when she wrote to her idol, sending a letter to connect with world famous boxer Muhammad Ali. Nobody expected the famous boxer to respond, but he did! Meade has kept her disabled father company as she watched the boxer fight and she simply wanted to thank him. Instead, Ali handwrote the little girl a letter and then continues to exchange messages with her — for 30 years! “I sent him my report cards and told him my deepest secrets,” Stephanie recalls. You just never know who will respond.

A Little Girl Strikes Up A Conversation With A Dictator

A Little Girl Strikes Up A Conversation With A Dictator

This story of a pen pal made its ways on a September 12, 2003, airing of the radio program This American Life. When Sarah York, a fifth grader in1980s, struck up a correspondence with General Manuel Noriega. At the time of their first letters, he was the leader and dictator of Panama. Amazingly, the odd pairing managed to continually write to each other and they formed a friendship that would last decades. Sarah was even able to travel to Panama where she met the main she was corresponding with for many years.

Juanita Wagner And Anne Frank

Juanita Wagner And Anne Frank

In 1939, a teacher at a Montessori School in Iowa arranged with her class to correspond with students in the Netherlands. Ten-year-old Juanita Wagner was chosen to draw a name from the teacher’s list and she chose Margot, Anne Frank’s older sister. Their short lived pen pal relationship was detailed Susan Goldman Rubin’s “Searching for Anne Frank,” which debuted in 2003. Anne Frank became the face for change after the holocaust but it wasn’t just the young girl who was killed during a raid of the home they were hiding in.

A Starving Child And A Canadian Soldier

A Starving Child And A Canadian Soldier

During World War II, Canadian soldier Howard Hayward found himself in Nijmegen, Holland where he met Margaret, a hungry child whose family was living off grass and tulip bulbs. The soldier immediately jumped into action, sharing his rations with the little girl and her family. The child’s mother gave him a photo of her to remember the moment. Forty-five years later, Hayward searched for Margaret, and the two struck up a correspondence. After they reconnected, Margaret started sending her hero one letter every single month.

Surviving A War And Staying Connected

Surviving A War And Staying Connected

Rosario and Elizabeth were separated by an ocean and plenty of cultural differences. One of the young girls grew up the Philippines and the other was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas. In the 1930s the young women started to write back and forth. They survived World War II, got married, and had children of their own. While life continued to move forward for both of the women, they remained pen pals for many decades, updating each other on their lives and the lives of the children they eventually brought into the world.

Meeting After 30 Years

Meeting After 30 Years

New York’s George Ghossn and California’s Lori Gertz spent 42 years exchanging handwritten letters back and forth. The pen pals started writing letters as part of a chain letter. The goal was to send out five letters and receive thousands back in return. After George received a letter from Lori, he decided to keep on writing to her. The pair finally had a chance to meet when Gertz’s 18-year-old son decided to visit Hofstra University in Hempstead. When they finally met Ghossn said of the moment, “We just hugged, and we cried … and it was very emotional after all the years.” Ghossn’s brothers have all passed away and he has no living family members, but he says Gertz is like a sister to him.

A Chance Meeting Turns Into A Lasting Friendship

A Chance Meeting Turns Into A Lasting Friendship

Tami Brangham of California and Steve Malcolm of New Zealand were finally able to meet in person after nearly four decades of writing pen pal letters to each other. Steve’s family hosted her friend who was studying abroad. Steve spotted Tami’s photo in her friend’s yearbook and asked to contact her. They wrote for many years but then lost contact with each other for 10 years. Steve was eventually able to reconnect with his pen pal. He has a big world view on pen pals. “I think more people should be pen friends. The world would be a happier place.” After finally meeting in real life the pen pals decided to visit Los Angeles and follow up that trip with a tour of Yosemite.

Hundreds Of Letters Before A Real Meeting

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Like many of the people on our list, it was a school teacher who recommended that Mt Sheridan’s Dina Bradshaw connect with American pen pal Paula Jodoin. Over the course of 50 years, the women shared their hopes, dreams, successes, and failures with one another. “I lived in Upper Daradgee in Innisfail at the time and remembered what a thrill it was to get the letters each time,” Ms Bradshaw said. The woman lost touch for a short period in the 1970s but reconnected through Ms. Jodoin’s parents. Bradshaw loves her pen pal relationship so much and wishes that the handwritten letter would be revised because “there is nothing like it,” she laments.

These Celebrity Pen Pals Fell In Love

These Celebrity Pen Pals Fell In Love

Actress Carey Mulligan and singer Marcus Mumford first met as children when they were paired up as part of a pen pal program. They wrote to each other for a while and then lost contact as the years went by. After Mulligan became a famous actress and Mumford founded the hit-making band, Mumford & Sons, the pair eventually reconnected. Their story doesn’t end there. The pair eventually fell in love and then got married. The pen pal era might have passed as we connect with people over the internet but the stories from a simpler time still resonate with us today.

This Transatlantic Pen Pal Pair Fell In Love

This Transatlantic Pen Pal Pair Fell In Love

Tony and Debbi Dyson involved more than 400 letters that were sent from Haverhill, England to Hermiston, Oregon and then back again. They started writing to each other in 1983 after some of Debbi’s friends moved to England to teach for a year. Tony says they started corresponding in December and by February, “I knew I’d marry her. Every day was like Christmas when we got a letter.” Their letters spoke of daily life along with pictures of themselves and their families. “We truly fell in love before we met,” said Debbi. “From his pictures I could just see something in his face – something different.” The couple eventually met in person, realized they wanted to be together forever, and got married before starting a family.

A Governor And An Elderly Constituent

A Governor And An Elderly Constituent

An elderly Bar Harbor woman struck up a letter-based conversation with the governor of Maine and her original outreach turned into a pen pal relationship. Gov. LePage was so happy to have a new friend that he gave her a shout-out in his State of the State address Tuesday night. When members of the press got a hold of the news they interviewed the woman, who wrote a letter to “Governor Paul” as she was filmed. The pen pal relationship had been ongoing for two years after she wrote to the governor to talk about important issues affecting their state. “Thank you so much for the nice card,” LePage wrote in his letter. “Yes, domestic violence is something we need to speak out against.” Governor LePage even sent his biggest support a necklace as a show of support and respect.

Helping A Pen Pal In Need

Helping A Pen Pal In Need

Pat Rossini’s fifth grade class never met Krissy Quinn, a resident of Denver, Pennsylvania. However, one of her students was a pen pal with Quinn and the pair had been exchanging letters for months. In one letter Sam learned of a troubling time in Krissy’s life. “Hello Sam. How are you doing?” Krissy wrote. “I am not very good. That would be because my house burnt down so I have lost everything.” He soon learned that the fire happened on the little girl’s birthday. Within 24 hours, the entire class put together a fundraiser and soon presented the family with a check for $780. Krissy and her family were in tears when her pen pal presented the check during a Face Time conversation.

Ten High School Students And Syrian Refugees

Ten High School Students And Syrian Refugees

Ten Linn-Mar High School students in Iowa decided to become pen pals with Syrian refugees after teacher David Swaney, a government teacher, arranged the program. “Anytime that students can get real life experience one-on-one speaking with a Syrian Refugee to find out the reality of what it’s like on the ground in one of the biggest current event stories of our time, there is nothing better,” Swaney said. The students hand write every letter and then upload them on the internet to make delivery easier. Through their correspondence they have learned what it is like for a Syrian refugee during their day-to-day struggled. “Regretfully my oldest brother died in the war, my two other brothers disappeared, just I remain alive,” one of the letters revealed.

Connecting After The Vietnam War

Connecting After The Vietnam War

Jerry Davis’ fifth grade students started a pen pal program during the Vietnam War. 50 years after the program was completed, those same students visited the National Museum of American History where they reconnected with various items they had shared during the time of the program. The program started in 1967 when David had her 25 students write letters to Vietnam soldiers. Some parents didn’t like the programs goals but Davis convinced them that it would be a boost for soldier moral. One of the soldiers, Joe Meskaitis, whom the kids called “Mosquito,” and two of his former student pen pals, Bill Harrison and Bruce Nelson, reunited at the museum to celebrate their unique relationship.

Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone De Beauvior

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Sartre and Beauvoir were well known for their relationship but it wasn’t until 1986 that Beauvoir’s estate published her unedited notes in “Letters to Sartre.” The letters revealed some deeply private moments between the pair. In one of the letters from Beauvoir it reads, “Goodbye, your self, my life—I love you. The weather’s filthy—my whole room’s shaken by the wind, you’d think it was going to turn upside down. My tenderest kisses, beloved little being—I dreamt about you.” Let’s face it, we just don’t write like that in emails these days.