Lifelong Pen Pals


This is my mother, Jeanne (right), who lives in Kansas City. By her side is Jennifer (left), who lives in England. These two have been pen pals for about 53 years. Until two weeks ago, they had never met each other in person.


These letters that Jeanne has kept were two of the last that Jennifer sent from South Africa before she and her husband moved to England in the 1980s.

When they were both of elementary school age, they started writing to each other as part of pen pal programs in Girl Scouts (for Jeanne here in the US) and Girl Guides (in South Africa where Jennifer grew up). Through the years, they have continued to send handwritten letters, apprising each other of their lives: their growing families, careers (both are teachers), vacations (or “holidays”), and so on.

Then last year, Jennifer informed Jeanne of her hopes to visit her in Kansas City.  It was only then that they first used the rapid correspondance of email with each other in order to help organize her visit this summer.


Jeanne and Jennifer share their interesting story with a KSHB 41 TV photojournalist.

To make a long story short, they had a lovely time reminiscing, getting to know each other in person, visiting the sites of Kansas City, and for Jennifer getting to know our family. Both feel it was a blessing to meet after all these years but a week was much too short a time. So now it is my mother’s turn to visit her friend in England.

In the digital, social-network era, is letter writing dead? By looking at how meaningful communicating by post has been to this friendship, it would be a sad day to realize that it is gone; that we can’t slow down to reflect, write, send, and wait.


4 thoughts on “Lifelong Pen Pals

  1. Hi, Rachel Davison, Jennifer is my Mum-in-Law, I am married to Stephen, Jennifer and Bill’s eldest son and mum to their eldest and youngest grandchildren – fantastic photos and what a wonderful experience for them both. Jennifer was full of wonderful news, photos and talk of her time out in Kansas and loved meeting all of your family. I’m so pleased she had such a good time and we should applaud them for keeping in touch for so long.
    Handwriting letters is magical and we should all do more :-)
    Love Rachel

  2. This was such a neat story!! I would love a pen pal for that long! I’ve had sponsor children over the years, but they don’t write forever. Maybe this new girl will? She has the best letters of any of them and seems super cool. But it was inspiring to read your story and see the photos, thanks for sharing

    • Thanks, Angela.
      Letter writing has a way of connecting people who never would have known each other or kept in touch otherwise. Even modern electronic communication seems lacking when it comes to learning in depth about people from other places and cultures. Only physically traveling can beat it.

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