BOW, NH–Spanning over four decades and crossing multiple time zones, the friendship of two longtime Girl Scouts is a testament to the organization’s life-enhancing youth programs. Jean Rich of Bow, NH was just ten years old when she received her first letter from her pen pal Sharon Arthur of Australia. Rich, who lived in New Jersey during her childhood years, participated in the letter exchange as part of a Girl Scout badge program.
Rich received her first letter in August of 1972. What she didn’t know then was that she would have a lifelong friend in Arthur. The two young women continued to exchange cards and letters throughout middle and high school, and well into college. “We were the same age and I just thought it was so cool to get those letters,” Rich said. “She’d draw little hearts and include these cute little phrases, like ‘Posty, Posty, don’t be slow!’”
Decades before email existed, Girl Scouts gave Rich the opportunity to learn, at a very young age, how to access the world at her fingertips. “It was pretty exciting to get my own mail—we didn’t have texting then,” said Rich, who would later correspond with another pen pal from England. “Even though she was in another country, we could relate on so many levels.”
As the mail poured in, Rich was soon struck by the similarities she shared with her newfound friend. Arthur would always sign the letters as “your loving pen pal and friend.” The two young women wrote about their daily lives, about their families, and about their respective holiday celebrations. “I had to get used to the fact that Christmas comes in the summertime over there,” Rich recalled with a laugh.
When Rich was in her second year of college, the letters became less frequent and eventually stopped altogether. “We kind of lost touch as our lives drifted in different directions,” she said. Rich continued with her college education, completing law school, while Arthur got married and immediately began raising a family. Still, the two women never stopped thinking of each other.
In April 2014, Rich tracked down Arthur via Facebook and soon after, received a response. A long-lost friendship was rekindled. “We stay in touch through emails and chats now,” Rich said. “She has all kinds of grandkids now. Someday we hope to meet in person.”
With a successful legal career under her belt, Rich, now a mom to a teenage son, still treasures memories of her Girl Scout years. “I’ve kept all those letters, all those years,” she said. “They’re tucked in a shoe box, along with my Girl Scout sash.
Interested in connecting with Girl Scouts and Girl Guides throughout the world? Click here to learn more: World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts Pen pal Program