Monday, 11/05/2023

72 Years Later, Woman Gets Answer to Note on an Egg

Mary Foss Starn signed this egg and put it into a carton at work in 1951. (JOHN AMALFITANO)
Mary Foss Starn holds a container of fresh eggs. About 72 years ago, she wrote messages on eggshells at work. (LAURIE BASCOM VIA THE WASHINGTON POST)

Mary Foss Starn is 92 years old. She lives in Iowa. As a young woman, she worked packing eggs.

One day, she and her friends hatched a plan to have some fun. They wrote notes on a few of the eggs. Then they sent the eggs into the world, like messages in a bottle.

Seventy-two years later, someone responded.

A Crackpot Plan

The friends wrote their names and hometowns on the shells. They put the eggs into different cartons. Most were headed to the East Coast.

“Whoever gets this egg, please write me,” Starn wrote. She added the date: April 2, 1951.

She hoped to maybe end up with a pen pal in New York. Pen pals write letters to each other. Starn sent out four or five eggs that day. She didn’t hear anything back.

So Many Years Later …

Starn married and had two daughters. She often told them stories about her younger years.

“We heard that egg story our entire lives,” said daughter Laurie Bascom, 67. “Our mom always thought it would have been fun to get a response.”

Last month, Starn’s older daughter, Jacque Ploeger, got a surprise. A cousin sent a Facebook message. Someone had posted a photo of an egg with Mary’s name on it.

Starn was with Ploeger at the time. Neither could believe the news.

“I thought somebody must have had a really good refrigerator,” Starn said.

The Tale of the Egg

In 1951, Miller Richardson lived in Staten Island, New York. He was an artist and a collector. He bought a box of eggs. One egg had a note written on it. He wrapped up the egg and kept it.

About 20 years ago, his neighbor John Amalfitano found the egg in a box.

“[Miller] said he’d kept it because of the writing on it,” he said.

Miller gave Amalfitano the egg to keep. Amalfitano put the egg inside a silver cup. He stored it away for the next 20 years.

The egg didn’t rot. Instead, it dried out inside.

A Story Too Good to “Egg-nore”

This summer, Amalfitano posted about the egg in a Facebook group. The group shares “weird” and “wonderful” finds. Amalfitano wrote that he had tried to find the writer of the note. But he’d had no luck.

Within hours, many people had commented on the post. They wanted to help “crack” the “egg-cellent” mystery. By the end of the day, Amalfitano was on the phone to Ploeger. Then Mary herself got on the call.

Now the two hope to meet.

“I’m happy to have a new friend,” Starn said. “I finally have my pen pal, and it only took 72 years.”

Words in This Story

  • hatched v. started an idea; was born out of an egg
  • entire adj. complete or full
  • rot v. slowly become destroyed by natural processes
  • weird adj. not normal or expected
  • crack v. find the answer

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