Dear Pen Pal…

Name: Tiffany Biason

Location: New York, New York

Relationship to Jessica: Pen Pal and Friend

Jess and I have been pen pals since 4th grade. I received a chain letter with a list of about 6 people and their addresses (this would NOT be ok in this day and age)! The instructions were to send a letter to the person at the top of the list. There were other complicated instructions to remove the top person’s name, add your own name at the bottom, and send copies of the new list to 7 other people. Jessica’s name was at the top of the list, so I sent her a letter, most likely asking her if she wanted to be pen pals. She actually wrote back to me, and the rest is history.

Jessica & Tiffany when they first met in Miami, October 2001

Tiffany & Jessica in NYC, July 2009


Dear Pen Pal,

When I found out that you were gone, I could only think of our conversation during our last brunch together. I couldn’t help but feel guilty. Should I have known that it would be the last time I would see you? Are there words of comfort that I could have shared?

I was at home in Texas one month after you left. I found shoeboxes full of your old letters and pictures. Do you remember how we wrote page after page about the music we loved and the concerts we went to? We gushed and griped about boys, and sent pictures of ourselves with these silly boys from our junior high and high school dances. It seems that you were always the picture enforcer, as evidenced by the numerous reminders that you would write throughout the letter, in the margins, as a “P.S,” and in some instances, a “P.P.S.” We sent each other pictures and descriptions of our first cars, but not before you first described the jobs you worked to earn money for the car. I have postcards of your many family trips to Aruba, and remember thinking it must be a great place if it’s worth going back so many times. You wrote me a letter from your car ride to Georgetown. You talked about your “last summer” and how you were so sad to leave your friends in Jersey.

Then there was the first letter after we met in Miami. Finally, pictures that included both us…together! And you wrote, “Guess what, I loved ya!” The feeling was, of course, mutual. I couldn’t believe how much we hit it off, but after so many years and so many letters, how could we not? There was the letter from before you left for Spain, and the letter with the news that you would be working in New York.

Our world changed, and we wrote fewer letters, but sent more emails and texts. After years of writing on Snoopy and Lisa Frank stationary, we shared our stories in person, over brunch or dinner.

I am finally able to laugh while thinking of you. I smile at the thought of how young and impressionable we were before we became ambitious New Yorkers. I have to think about these happy times more often. It reminds me of how special our relationship is, and the special kind of friend you are.

Happy Birthday, Jess. One final memory, in a letter you wrote:
“I remember your birthday because it is 10 days before Christmas. You can remember mine because it’s on Valentine’s Day.”

I will never forget you, my dear Pen Pal. I miss you more than words can say.

Your Pen Pal,

The Avid Reader

Name: Ryan Dunleavy

Location: Whippany, New Jersey

Relationship to Jessica:  Friend

Jess and I met in elementary school and remained friends.

Jessica & Ryan in High School


My first memory of Jess isn’t the kind of funny/embarrassing story that high school friends will tell over and over again as the years go by. I have plenty of those, but I prefer this one:

At Salem Drive Elementary School, classes broke into reading groups once a day. I hated reading groups until one day when Jess — who already was known as the smartest kid in class — convinced me otherwise. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but I know I’ve always secretly credited her for generating my interest in reading in a way that my teachers could not. I guess I listened to her because her intelligence, maturity and ambition was something to be envious of even back then.