The really big gift Mary Jo (Caruso) Seigman received Christmas Eve has been more than 45 years in the making.
Talk about a surprise! It was that and more. Something she would never have thought in a million years would happen.
But thanks to her daughter, Angela Wojtecki, it will.
Here’s the story as shared by Wojtecki:
“My mom has been writing to her pen pal Julie (Taylor) Angwin in Cornwall, England, for more than 45 years.”
Wojtecki said her mother was around 9 years old and in school when she was matched with a pen pal, assigned at random by a teacher. Forty-five years later, the pen pals still handwrite (and email) letters, but have never spoken to one another or heard each other’s voices.
“I remember getting letters and cards from her [Angwin] and her family and thinking England was on the other part of the universe,” Wojtecki said. “Well, in August I found Julie’s son, Matt, on Facebook (neither Julie or my mom have Facebook) and messaged him.
“I remember writing, ‘You probably think I am crazy but our moms are pen pals. Let’s help them meet face to face!’
“I am a school librarian for Nordonia Hills City Schools and being a librarian, I find information; so I knew I could make this happen without my mom even knowing what I was doing!” she continued.
A month later, Matt wrote back with his mother’s email address.
“I wanted to take the time and see if the two of them [could] meet face to face finally,” Wojtecki continued. “Most pen pals last a few years, but 45 years and marriage, children and memories later, they need to do this and actually meet … Julie emailed me and was very excited to help me plan the surprise meeting in Cornwall, England, this coming July. She even offered to pay our lodging and train into Cornwall to help curb my costs.”
But dear daughter wouldn’t hear of it.
Wojtecki talked about how the surprise gift unfolded for her mother on Christmas Eve at her family’s annual gathering.
“I had some ‘Made in England’ gifts first to help with the build-up, and then my cousin Nick (thanks to my uncle’s Royal Guard uniform he purchased when he was in England) came out with the queen’s song playing in the background and handed her the tickets.”
Talk about shocked and overjoyed!
Here’s a little more background.
Mary Jo Seigman — who resides in Akron with her husband Jim — is 55. Her son, Dan, is 33 and daughter Angela is 28. She’s never been out of the country, except for Canada, and doesn’t like flying.
Angwin is 57; but will be 58 when the two finally meet. She has three children: Claire, 33; Tom, 31; and Matthew; 28.
“Although your Mum and I are not the same age; nor were we married anywhere near each other; when she wrote to me to tell me [she] was pregnant; so was I and there is only six weeks between the two of them [the births of Dan and Claire and Angela and Matthew],” Angwin shared in an email to Wojtecki.
“All Aboard!” is the invitation for the 37th annual Sugartown Express, the popular, fun benefit for the American Diabetes Association of Northeast Ohio planned for 4:30 to 8 p.m. Jan. 25, at the Quaker Station, University of Akron.
“The casual event focuses on local business and community ‘celebrities’ who serve a menu of traditional pizza, pretzels and hors d’oeuvres to more than 400 guests,” writes event spokeswoman Jennifer Knechtel. “Family-friendly, the event features an expansive silent auction, raffles, music and entertainment. An addition to the event in 2013 is a craft beer sampling from renowned Akron area breweries, including Hoppin’ Frog, Indigo Imp, Lager Heads Brewing, RooBrew, and Thirsty Dog. All benefits will support research, advocacy and the education efforts of the American Diabetes Association.”
Sugartown Express was founded by Madeline and Libert Bozzelli. It is the longest continuously running ADA event, raising more than $750,000 since its 1976 inception.
Tickets — at $30 — can be purchased in advance online at www.diabetes.org/sugartown express. For more information, please contact Knechtel at 216-328-9989, ext. 6741 or jknechtel @diabetes.org.
Help for Project RISE
Major kudos to volunteers from Akron’s Sons of Italy Lodge No. 685 who collected and wrapped more than 300 toys and games for children served by Project RISE (Realizing Individual Strength through Education).
“Project RISE — managed by Debra Manteghi — is a federally funded, collaborative effort by Akron Public Schools, local (homeless) shelters and the Akron community to provide supplemental educational services to children and youth experiencing homelessness,” wrote Rachel Breece, Project RISE’s child and family development specialist. “During the 2011-2012 school year, Project RISE identified and served 997 students.”
Each year (since 2009), Sons of Italy has donated items that include puzzles, educational games, art supplies, bath and body products, gift certificates, journals, pajamas and more.
For more information about Project RISE, please call 330-761-2969 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information about Sons of Italy, please call Mary Schifano at 330-794-0947.
Shoes for kids
The University of Akron’s Student Social Work League (SSWL) president and Project RISE intern Emily Stranges collected 35 pairs of shoes for Project RISE for children who have experienced homelessness.
The shoes came courtesy of SSWL’s “Got Soles Project” collection boxes placed around UA’s campus.
Jewell Cardwell can be reached at 330-996-3567 or email@example.com.