The world is remembering Muhammad Ali as first-class boxer and humanitarian, but Seattle resident Stephanie Meade knew him as a pen pal.
Meade began exchanging letters with Ali in 1981, when she was 10. At the time, she spent her days with her disabled father watching Ali’s bouts on television.
She mailed her first letter to “Los Angeles” without knowing Ali’s exact address. He responded three weeks later, beginning a correspondence that continued for decades.
“Muhammad Ali has definitely been the single greatest influence on my life,” Meade told the New York Daily News last week, a few days after Ali’s death at age 74.
Over the years, Meade shared her grades and stories from her life. Ali always responded with advice and inspiration.
After briefly losing touch, Meade met Ali when he visited Seattle in 1992 to attend a fundraiser. He wrote down his new address and encouraged her to resume the correspondence.
When Parkinson’s disease robbed Ali of the ability to write, he had someone type his letters, Meade told the BBC.
“It’s true what he said — he was the ‘Greatest of All Time.’ But he was an even greater man,” she said.