Some folks in New Zealand now know about the North Dakota State University Bison and the Minnesota Twins.

That’s due to a couple of women from North Dakota who are pen pals with a woman who was visiting that country.

Back in 1960, Connie Osborn, who was 12, found the name of Linda Ayres, of Wales, in a list of foreign pen pals published by Connie’s youth group at Bethany United Methodist church near Fairmount, N.D. So she wrote her, and the pen pal writing began.

Linda Williams (left) and Connie Kleinwort have been pen pals with Linda Ayres since 1960. Special to The Forum
Linda Williams (left) and Connie Kleinwort have been pen pals with Linda Ayres since 1960. Special to The Forum

Then Connie’s friend, Margie Caulkins, also of rural Fairmount, began writing Linda, too.

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So now the three women’s pen pal friendship has been going on for 60 years.

All three girls married. Connie is married to Bernie Kleinwort and now lives in Fargo; Margie now is Mrs. Myron Kluge; they split their time between rural Hankinson, N.D., and Cape Coral, Fla.; and Linda has been married twice, to Cliff Williams and Bernard Trubey, but both husbands have passed away.

They’ve visited each other in their own countries, plus for Connie and Linda last November, in New Zealand. Connie writes “Neighbors” about it.

It was Connie’s and Bernie’s 50th wedding anniversary. So they celebrated by going on a two-week cruise to Australia and New Zealand.

Linda, the pen pal who lives in Wales, has a daughter who, with her family, lives in Wellington, New Zealand. So Linda goes there every so often to visit her. Last November, she and Connie arranged a get-together there.

Margie was supposed to be there, but unfortunately she couldn’t make the trip due to poor health.

Linda’s daughter Tina, her husband, Cam, and their two sons “were so good to us,” Connie writes, “and it was so fun to just hang out with them and their friends. We were busy morning to night seeing all the sights.

“They took us to a rugby game at the Wellington Sky Stadium, which holds approximately 30,000 people. We learned a lot about the game.

“We also were able to attend two softball games their youngest son was playing in.

“Their sons are Zane, 19, and Barney, 17. Zane is quite the rugby player.

“We gave Cam (their father) a Bison shirt, Barney a Twins shirt and Zane a USA rugby shirt, so the USA will be well represented over there.

“We have also learned that NDSU has a rugby team so we will be following them from now on.


Love those letters

“As you can imagine,” Connie writes, “with all the social media, we (the pen pals) are able to contact each other quite often now. We also call about once a month. But we still write a letter every three or four months. There really is nothing like getting that letter in the mail and sitting down with a cup of coffee and reading it and rereading it. Our one regret is that we did not keep our early letters.

“In the almost 60 years we have met 10 times on three continents. Who knew back in 1960 that 60 years later we would have become such great friends? Not only that, but we feel like family instead of friends.

“When Linda first visited North Dakota with her children in 1982, we were interviewed on a noon day-type show in Grand Forks. We were also featured in a newspaper article. And when we were in New Zealand, Linda and I were interviewed on a local radio station. We think a movie offer might be next. Haha!”

Well, movie contract or not, thanks to Connie for reporting on this 60-year international “family” relationship.

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