BRIMFIELD TWP: For more than 50 years, best friends Suzan LaMancusa and Wendy Teeter shared everything with each other.

Stories about mean teachers. Pets. Cute boys. Marriages. Kids. Divorces. Going back to college. Illnesses.

The one thing they had never shared?

A hug.

That changed Sunday.

The two pen pals who started exchanging letters in January 1964 when they were both in the fourth grade met face to face for the first time.

“I didn’t think I’d tear up, but I did. I did,” said Teeter, 60, of Staunton, Va.

There was some trepidation about seeing each other after all these years, admitted LaMancusa, 60, of Brimfield Township. “Are you going to like each other and lose the mysticism? What happens if she doesn’t like me?”

They both laughed at that last thought.

Their long-distance relationship started when two childhood friends connected them as pen pals. Back then, there was no Facebook or Twitter or texting by cell phone.

If you wanted a friend in another part of the U.S. or world, you became pen pals. You’d write a letter, put it in the mailbox and then wait impatiently for a reply.

A stamp cost 5 cents.

At the time, LaMancusa was living in Tallmadge. Teeter lived in Islip, N.Y.

Teeter mailed the first letter. It was simple. Just as you would expect from a 10-year-old.

She introduced herself and then asked a ton of questions such as whether LaMancusa was in the Girl Scouts or Brownies. And she wanted a picture of LaMancusa’s dog.

She didn’t hear back.

Another letter was sent.

She didn’t hear back.

Then another letter was mailed. And this time, Teeter punctuated it with “PLEASE WRITE BACK!” and repeated that phrase several times.

“I was really shy,” LaMancusa said. “I didn’t know what to write.”

She finally responded, and their lifelong friendship blossomed.

After about three years of exchanging letters, they telephoned each other. But those calls were kept short because of long-distance charges.

Letters in the mail? Long-distance phone charges? Oh, how times have changed, they laughed while sitting at LaMancusa’s dining room table.

They stuck to writing. And even though the letters may have gotten less frequent over the years, they always stayed in touch. Recently, they have branched out by texting each other.

LaMancusa and Teeter have saved many of the letters. LaMancusa spread out some of Teeter’s — including the first one — on her dining room table Sunday and the two read along, laughing at the memories.

In one, Teeter wrote how she wanted to meet someone at an upcoming dance.

Teeter didn’t know why she signed some: “Your ugly pen pal Wendy.” A lack of self-confidence, she guessed.

They could share anything in those letters.

“She was my psychiatrist,” LaMancusa said.

There was no fear in telling secrets. It wasn’t like one could blab to the other’s friends.

They also always promised each other that they would meet one day. At first, they planned to meet up in their 20s. Then 30s. Then 40s …

Life always got in the way and they never even found themselves in the same state at the same time.

There was the one time that LaMancusa was in the Florida town where Teeter lived for the holidays. But, wouldn’t you know it, Teeter was back on Long Island.

That changed when Teeter’s husband decided to attend a Navy reunion in Cadiz — more than an hour’s drive south from Akron. It was close enough that the two pen pals decided it was time.

LaMancusa, a shareholder services administrator at Omnova Solutions, and Teeter, a high school teacher, met at Quaker Steak and Lube in Jackson Township at first to feel each other out. Teeter’s husband came along just to make sure LaMancusa was who she said she was and not, as they chuckled, a serial killer.

Then they visited LaMancusa’s house. Teeter got to see for the first time LaMancusa’s sense of style. And she got to see some places she had only read about in letters — LaMancusa’s childhood home and the Kent State University campus.

Then they went shopping.

Now that they’ve met, they hope to get together once a year.

“We get to see who we are now,” Teeter said.

“The fine young women we are,” LaMancusa said.

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com.