57-year pen pals meet
Eleven-year-old Rosemary Severinson pages through a children's magazine, stopping at a drawing of a flower. She's intrigued by the name and address below the art and, for no apparent reason, Lucille Raspotnik of Pennsylvania seems like a natural ...
Eleven-year-old Rosemary Severinson pages through a children's magazine, stopping at a drawing of a flower.
She's intrigued by the name and address below the art and, for no apparent reason, Lucille Raspotnik of Pennsylvania seems like a natural pen pal.
With encouragement from her mother, Severinson writes the faceless stranger from her home in Devils Lake, N.D. Not soon after, she receives a letter back.
That was 57 years ago.
For nearly six decades, the two women have not stopped writing and, for the first time, they met Thursday at Fargo's Hector International Airport.
Greetings were different from that first letter in 1947.
Severinson now lives in Moorhead and goes by the last name of Johnson, while Raspotnik, who lives near Pittsburgh, goes by Mariana.
Over the years, the two women have opened their lives to each other through letters, from marriages and child births to holiday greetings and family deaths.
"It's so nice to finally get together," said Mariana during a long hug at the airport.
Mariana arrived in Fargo with her husband, Bill. The couple will stay for a week before heading back to their home in Manor, Penn.
As children, Johnson said the two corresponded about once a month. Over the years the frequency diminished, but Johnson said the letters have never stopped.
"When I first started, I just wanted someone to write to," Johnson said. "But the ability to get to know someone you've never seen has been great."
She said the two have exchanged pictures over the years, but they've only spoken on the phone five or six times, and all but one of those calls came in the last six months.
Of the hundreds of letters Johnson received from Mariana, she saved only one. She found the letter, postmarked 1947, while rummaging through her cedar chest in the summer of 2000.
"I never thought I'd need them, so I hadn't been keeping them," Johnson said. "It's a miracle I found this one."
Finding that early correspondence largely made Thursday's union happen.
After Johnson sent Lucille Mariana a copy of the 1947 letter, Bill Mariana was so impressed he wrote Johnson back to say they had to get together.
"I told her (Lucille Mariana) we're not getting any younger," he said.
Lucille Mariana said she had several pen pals as a kid, but Johnson is the only one that lasted through the years.
"We had more in common than we knew," she said. "There's always a reason."
Johnson said the two now write less than three times a year, but they still use the post office because Mariana doesn't have e-mail.
Johnson's granddaughter, 12-year-old Kayla, might be in the same shoes as her grandmother 60 years from now. Kayla Johnson has already begun searching for pen pals on the Internet.
Nonetheless, she'll have a long way to catch up with her grandma.
"It's almost like a dream," said Rosemary Johnson. "I said I wouldn't believe it until I saw her."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Nick Kotzea at (701) 235-7311