Remarkable real-life pen pals

The story of Rosario and Elizabeth. This pen pal friendship, between a young girl in a small village in the Philippines and a young girl in Wichita, Kansas, began in the 1930s and lasted more than fifty years. The two girls survived World War II, got married, had children--and stayed in touch. Read more here: "A Remarkable 50-Year Pen Pal Relationship."

Rosario (right) and a friend (not her pen pal) (photo courtesy of Gilda Martinez)

The story of two pairs of twins . . . who have been pen pals for 80 years. In 1935, Australian twins Dulcie and Nancy began a pen pal correspondence with Barbara and Beatrice, in the United States. In 2016, they are still writing to each other ... as have their daughters and their grandchildren. Read Amanda Hoh's story for ABC News (Australia), "Sydney Twins Still in Contact with Pen Pals after 80 Years of Letter Writing."

Nancy Varley with photos of her and her sister's pen pals. (Photo by Amanda Hoh)

The story of the girl whose pen pal was Muhammad Ali. When she was 10 years old Stephanie Meade wrote a letter to Muhammad Ali. Years of keeping her disabled father company watching Muhammad Ali's fights had made her a fan. No one expected Ali to answer, but he did: he sent Stephanie a handwritten reply. After their initial exchange of letters, they kept up writing for 30 years. "I sent him my report cards and told him my deepest secrets," Stephanie recalls. Read more at the BBC, "'Muhammad Ali Was My Pen Pal for 30 Years.'"

One of Muhammad Ali's letters to Stephanie. (Photo by Stephanie Meade.)

The story of the girl whose pen pal was was a Panamanian dictator. On September 12, 2003, the radio program This American Life presented the story of Sarah York, a fifth grader who, in the 1980s, struck up a correspondence with General Manuel Noriega, at that time the leader of Panama. Eventually she visited him in Panama. You can hear the interesting and nuanced story here: "My Pen Pal, Act One: Who Put the 'Pistol' in 'Epistolary'?"

Manuel Noriega (photo widely available online)

The Story of Juanita Wagner . . . and Anne Frank. In 1939, a teacher at a Montessori School in Iowa arranged to have her class correspond with students in the Netherlands. When it was ten-year-old Juanita Wagner's turn to choose a name from the list, she chose Anne Frank--and her older sister Betty paired up with Anne's older sister Margot. The story of the brief correspondence between the young Iowa girl and the girl who became the face of the Holocaust is detailed in Susan Goldman Rubin's Searching for Anne Frank (2003). Read more in this article from an Iowa newspaper. 

Juanita Wagner, Anne Frank's pen pal (photo from the Quad-City Times)
Thanks to Don Truesdell for pointing out this story.

The story of the Canadian soldier and the starving girl. During World War II, Howard Hayward found himself in Nijmegen, Holland, and face to face with Margaret, a hungry child whose family "didn’t have as much as a potato peeling [to eat]. They were living on grass and tulip bulbs."  He shared his rations with her, and her mother gave him a photo of her. Forty-five years later, he found her again, and the two struck up a correspondence. Ever since, he has received a letter a month from Margaret. Read more in this article from the Nova Scotia Chronicle Herald.


Images taken from a video at the article link.

If you would like to share a story of a remarkable real-life pen pal, check out the contact page for ways to be in touch.