SOUTHINGTON -When she was in the eighth grade, Southington resident Suzette Shafer took part in a class pen pal program, writing to Yannick Monique in France.
While they kept communicating as adults, they never met each other until last week when Yannick and his wife, Monique Lescop of Rennes in Brittany, in the western part of France, stopped to see Shafer after 45 years.
Shafer said in 1966, when she was a student, there was a class project involving the ''Weekly Reader,'' and students were allowed to pick a pen pal.
"I sent a generic letter to France and Yannick got the letter, and we have kept corresponding over the years," she said, noting letters and cards were replaced by Facebook, email and Skype.
More than 45 years later, the two pen pals had the chance to meet each other in person.
"It is easier to communicate now than it was years ago, " she said.
Shafer said over the years, the two would let each other know about their families and what they were doing.
"When he had his children he let me know, and when I had my children I let him know,'' Shafer said.
"He found me on facebook by Googling 'Shafer Photography' and emailed me through my photography business,'' Shafer said.
Lescop and his wife were in Chicago and stopped in Ohio to see Shafer.
Shafer said she was crying and emotional when she saw Lescop.
"It was excited and very emotional. Even though I knew him, in some ways I didn't know him," Shafer said.
Monique found the visit interesting because she had also come to know Shafer through the many letters and emails.
Lescop said he had seen Shafer on the computer but it was nice to see her in person.
The three spent time looking over the many letters, cards, photos and emails, including the first pen pal letter Shafer sent and received back in the 1960s. He had even mailed some books in the 1970s and 1980s.
Lescop said he has been to the United States for his work as a salesman with stops in New York and Los Angeles.
His visit to Los Angeles included a stop to see his daughter, who lives and works in French Polynesia in the Pacific. His daughter is currently expecting twins.
The Lescops also have taken a motor home for stops at the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and Death Valley.
Lescop is since retired as a sales manager from Henkal Group which now allows him to travel more. Since his retirement three years ago at age 58, Lescop has been traveling more to Turkey and Egypt.
Lescop said everything in the United States is larger than in France, from the roads and doors to the views from windows. He said in France there are barriers between homes that prevent viewing of other homes. He said there are no fences unlike the many in rural Southington.
The couple stayed with Shafer for five days and enjoyed American food such as hot dogs and sloppy joes.
Lescop said he would love to drive a firetruck or school bus. He was shown the Youngstown-Warren Airport, which is near Shafer's home.
Shafer said she showed the Lescops different parts of Southington including the farms and the historic Chalker Building.
Lescop comes from Rennes, which has about 200,000 people. He said the weather in the United States is warmer since France has oceanic weather.
Lescop likes country music and western movies with stars such as Roy Rogers and Calamity Jane.
In France, everyone can ride on trains to get places, he said.
Shafer said she plans to visit Paris, France, in September 2013. When she is there, she will visit the Lescops and also learn more about her family's ancestors in Swtizerland.