Ruthie From Rio

September 5, 2009

In 1967 or so a pretty Brazilian girl named Ruthie Szapiro showed up in Wilmington, North Carolina.  The exchange student made herself at home at the Alper’s beautiful house on Hawthorne Road.  Millie still talks about how Ruthie from Rio brought the mini-skirt to Wilmington.  She befriended Scott’s mom, Barbara, and her brother Johnny, and Marilyn, who was away at college at the time.  Within days of arriving in the still small-ish North Carolina city she was dating the best-looking boy in town.

When we decided to move to Rio, Scott’s mom asked us to look up Ruthie.  We didn’t give it much thought, assuming that maybe we would get in touch when Bob and Barbara came to visit.  Barbara reminded us today that we should look her up.  With a quick google search we found Ruthie from Rio on Facebook.  Scott sent her a message to confirm that she was the correct Ruthie:

“A very strange question to receive from a total stranger: are you, by any chance, the same Ruth Szapiro who was an exchange student in Wilmington, North Carolina in the late 1960s?

My name is Scott Behar and my mother is Barbara Behar, whose name was Barbara Alper when a “Ruthie from Rio” came to live with her family. I now live in Rio with my girlfriend and my mother has asked me to look for the woman that she remembers from her childhood.

Apologies if you are not the right person!”

She wrote back soon after confirming that she was, indeed, the right person, remembered the Alpers well and asked Scott to call her, providing her cell and home phone numbers.  Like most Brazilians she was effusively warm, super excited to have made this very surreal connection, and apologized that she was going out of town for the next two days and couldn’t meet us until Tuesday or Wednesday.  Scott emailed his mom’s information to her and she told him stories about living in North Carolina.  She’s still here, in Rio, with three kids: an IBM executive son living in Dubai, a party planner daughter and a Rio lawyer.  We can’t wait to meet her.

She and Barbara also chatted, immediately after Scott talked to her, and I can only imagine how amazing that must have been for the two of them.  Maybe like a time warp?  It’s just incredible that these days within five minutes we are in close touch with a Brazilian woman that Scott’s mother’s family hadn’t really spoken to in forty years.


One Response to “Ruthie From Rio”

  1. Barbara said

    I was totally amazed at how quickly you and Scott were able to locate my old friend Ruth. It was wonderful to be able to reconnect with her after such a long time. Can’t wait to see her when we visit! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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