After 35 years, an Auckland woman has reunited with her pen pal from the United States, thanks to the power of social media and generous Kiwis.

Rebecca Robinson, 49, now from Texas, was clearing out her family home's closet when she discovered a photo of her long lost friend, Kiwi woman Felicity Avery.

The discovery sparked Robinson, who is an actress and an office worker, to try find her lost best friend in hopes for a happy reunion.

The first meeting

In the 1970s, the pair were matched through a pen-pal service that was in the back of a Sesame Street magazine.

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Avery said she cut the application out of the magazine while at school where Robinson's family had a Sesame Street subscription at home in Indiana.

"Back in the '70s when I was a little girl I always watched Sesame Street and subscribed to the magazine," Robinson explained.

Rebecca Robinson kept many letters and New Zealand postage stamps from Felicity Avery. Photos / Rebecca Robinsin
Rebecca Robinson kept many letters and New Zealand postage stamps from Felicity Avery. Photos / Rebecca Robinsin

"When I was 8 years old, in the back of the magazine it had a place where you could sign up to be a pen pal from another country and they would match you with someone your own age."

The US woman was excited to get a pen pal as she lived in the "middle of nowhere".

"I grew up in the country, and this was the 70s, so there were no computers, no video games and we didn't have cable television."

"When we were out of the school in summer, July and August, that's it, I'm out in the middle of nowhere.

"Signing up for a pen pal was pretty much the most exciting thing that ever happened to me at the point."

The search

When they reached the age of around 16, the pair stopped sending each other letters as they were both starting high school and got busy.

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After not talking since 1986, Robinson decided to look for Avery when she found an old photo she received from her in her family home's attic.

"My parents had downsized my house and I was cleaning out my stuff and that's where I found this picture of Felicity," she said.

"I had always wondered what happened to her. I spent so much of my life writing to her and learning about her life and I just thought we would never be in touch again."

With only one photo and Avery's childhood name, Felicity Wentworth, Robinson took to Twitter and asked if any New Zealanders could help her.

"I thought I could get a couple of retweets, I didn't think it would be a big deal," she said.

But she was shocked to find that Kiwis responded so generously.

"Within 12 hours I had over 100 retweets and my inbox on Twitter was just full," Robinson said.

"It was amazing, it made me cry because all of these New Zealanders, everyone was so kind. I couldn't believe it.

"I don't know if it would have happened if the shoe was on the other foot."

The US actress revealed that a Kiwi told her they were familiar with the childhood road she lived on and went to check it out and that someone else recognised her uniform.

"I kept getting all these clues, within 12 hours two different people sent me a Woman's Day article asking if it could be her," she said.

The reunion

In December 2016, Avery's husband, Mike Avery, featured in a Woman's Day article revealing his battle with cancer.

Readers made the connection by matching Avery's old photo with the magazine's and noticed that her brother, Miles Wentworth, featured in the article.

It was then, last Friday, Robinson realised she found her long-lost friend.

Felicity Avery with her husband Mike Avery (left), Rebecca Robinson (right). Photos / Felicity Avery, Rebecca Robinson
Felicity Avery with her husband Mike Avery (left), Rebecca Robinson (right). Photos / Felicity Avery, Rebecca Robinson

Before being contacted by Robinson, Avery, who is a medical typist, revealed that she coincidentally thought about her US pen pal a month ago.

"I was thinking 'I wonder what she's up to'," she said.

But the thought left her before she received the photo from Robinson on Facebook messenger.

"Sorry to intrude, are you Felicity Wentworth?" she asked.

"Oh my god, yes that's me," Avery replied.

Robinson said she was nervous at first to contact her lost pen pal, but everything worked out well.

"I was a little bit scared she didn't know who I was. What if she had no recollection of me. What if she thinks I'm stalking her.

"But she was just so lovely and was like 'this is great.'

The Aucklander said she was "blown away" that Robinson found her and thought it was a "special" moment.

Robinson also said she thought it would be a special time for them to rekindle their friendship as they both turn 50, the same time as Sesame Street celebrates its 50th anniversary.

The catch up

The Auckland mother-of-two revealed that they have been talking daily ever since.

"We've been writing back and forth, finding out about each other and what we've been up to," she said.

Robinson was wary at first at how their new friendship would work, but said it's like talking to an old friend.

"I was a little nervous it would be awkward or we wouldn't have anything to talk about, she said.

US woman Rebecca Robinson (left) found Kiwi woman Felicity Avery (right) through the power of social media. Photos / Rebecca Robinson, Felicity Avery
US woman Rebecca Robinson (left) found Kiwi woman Felicity Avery (right) through the power of social media. Photos / Rebecca Robinson, Felicity Avery

"But like any good friend that you have, time passes and you pick right back up where you left off.

"She's telling me all about her family. We are catching up on 35 years, so we have lots to talk about."

"We keep sending each other pictures. Last night she sent me a picture of her family eating dinner.

"It's like, we are just buddies again."

The memories

Robinson revealed that since reconnecting with her long lost pen pal, she had found all the letters Avery sent her and has forwarded them back to her.

"Since I found her, I have been cleaning out more boxes and I found a bunch of letters from our High School years," Robinson said.

Avery said she has been reading them to her daughters, Brooke, 24 and Madison 22, who have been left in hysterics.

"I thought oh my god a letter, a real letter," she said.

Letter. Photo / Rebecca Robinson
Letter. Photo / Rebecca Robinson

"It was like talking to your best friend, I would tell her everything.

"We talked about school, she went to a co-ed school I went to an all girl's school, talking about boys and favourite bands.

"It just made me laugh, it was just like oh my god this is what we used to talk about."

Robinson remembers in the letter they "mostly talked about boys" but also chatted about music and fashion.

Letter 1. Photo / Rebecca Robinson
Letter 1. Photo / Rebecca Robinson

"We both loved Cyndi Lauper ... She told me what fashions were cool in New Zealand," Robinson explained.

"The other thing I found striking is that she could not believe that I have never heard of cricket and rugby," she said.

"She explained it in great detail, here's how to play rugby, here's how to play cricket.

"It's funny that kids are like the same all over the world, teenage girls boys fashion.

"You think we would be talking about culture and politics, but no."

The US woman also found gifts that were sent by her Kiwi friend including a picture book of New Zealand, a Tiki necklace, soaps and a Laura Ashley sewing kit.

Rebecca Robinson received many presents from Felicity Avery when they were younger. Photos / Rebecca Robinson
Rebecca Robinson received many presents from Felicity Avery when they were younger. Photos / Rebecca Robinson

"She couldn't believe I saved all this stuff," Robinson said.

The pair can't wait to meet, with Avery saying they may possibly see each other this year.

"I would love to see her and meet her one day, but that might be hard," she said.

"We are going to Hawaii in August for my 50th and she said 'maybe I'll come along.' So she has thought about it."

Why you should get a pen pal

After sharing their story, Robinson wanted to share a message about how special it is having a pen pal.

"I'm sad because we live in a different time. People don't write letters anymore, especially kids. Just the act of writing to someone I think is a really great exercise," she said.

"Also for little kids, [having a pen pal] motivated me to learn about another country.

"Now you can Google stuff, but there's nothing like having a peer your age across the world where they tell you their day-to-day experiences. "

"I think friendship gets more important to you as you get older, especially with people you have known for a long time it becomes more precious to you.

"Having this reconnection has been really special to me, it just feels like a part of me is back together."