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A 50-year pen pal friendship that began with a message in a bottle

February 19, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 20.1%. 2 min read.

Robbinroger Beever was an American teenager living in Liberia with his diplomat father, when an unexpected discovery sparked a decade-spanning friendship with his Finnish pen pal Saija Kuparinen.

(CNN) — Robbinroger Beever was 15 years old and walking home along a beach in Liberia, West Africa.

But he had an idea: he'd introduce this young letter writer to his wife's sister, Saija Kuparinen.

Kuparinen wasn't confident writing in English, so she composed a message in German, writing about her school, friends, family and life in Finland.

Beever got her letter and was delighted.

Today, Kuparinen lives with her family in Finland, while Beever, who's spent time in countries across the globe, now lives with his wife and sons in Germany.

"We have been corresponding for almost 55 years -- from being giggly teenagers to older responsible adults," says Beever.

Growing up, Beever's family were never in one place for long.

For a while, Beever's letters to Kuparinen came with a US post stamp.

Beever wrote to Kuparinen about his growing love of Taiwan, especially the folk art tradition.

Beever began traveling back and forth to Vietnam to visit his father, and he wrote to Kuparinen about what he saw.

Among these more serious musings, Beever and Kuparinen had also bonded over a love of rock music.

Already, Kuparinen had become a constant in Beever's life.

Gösta Mårtensson, the merchant marine who'd kickstarted this letter-writing friendship, was delighted his sister-in-law and the finder of his message in a bottle had stayed in touch.

When Beever met new people and told them about his friendship with Kuparinen, he referred to her as one of his best friends.

Kuparinen met Beever for the first time in person in 2003, at Helsinki Airport.

As for Kuparinen, she says she truly didn't believe Beever would actually visit until she saw him in person.

Over a decade later, Beever visited Kuparinen for the second time.

"We all got along very well together and that was lovely," says Beever.

At the end of the day, the families would unwind with a Finnish beer, reflecting on their lives and Beever and Kuparinen's friendship.

"I think something has been lost and gained at the same time," says Beever.

This past year, grounded at home in Germany in the wake of the pandemic, Beever started properly sorting through the piles of letters, ID cards, souvenirs and momentos from his life, stored in his garage.

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