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Pen-pals for a lifetime...Strack and Rutherford meet for the first time


by Karin L. Nauber

Do you remember a Public Broadcast Station (PBS) show called “Big Blue Marble?” 

Barb Strack and Natalie Buchanan-Rutherford certainly do.

It was a half-hour children’s television series that ran from 1974 to 1983 on numerous syndicated and PBS TV stations.

“Distinctive content included stories about children around the world and a pen-pal club that encouraged intercultural communication,” according to Wikipedia.

It was the pen-pal part that created a story of 40 years of correspondence and friendship for Strack and Rutherford.

“I was 11 and at some point in the program they always had this part where you could sign up to be a pen-pal. This envelope with animated features would come on and give you the information to get a pen-pal,” recalled Rutherford.

They received their cards in the mail—that’s snail mail for those of you in the younger generation, not e-mail!

“We had to fill out our interests. Then they would set up a profile and match us up with someone of similar interests,” said Strack.

“I said I love animals,” recalled Rutherford.

“And I lived on a farm,” said Strack.

“That’s the only thing I can think of that would have connected us,” said Rutherford with a laugh.

It was enough of a connection, that the pair corresponded with each other over the next 40 years.

“People would be in awe when I would talk about Barb—my pen-pal from Minnesota. I’m not sure they believed that she really existed,” said Rutherford.

“Tony [Barb’s husband] would say, ‘Are you ever going to meet Natalie?’” said Strack.

While it took 40 years to do so, both said that even though they met in person for the first time on Monday, June 10, it felt like they had met before. . . .

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