The recent 2016 Olympics in Rio have inspired Ann Hauprich to share a series of
four stories she wrote in 2013 about a friendship that began four decades
earlier with a Rotary International exchange student from Brazil. Please scroll
down to read how the bonds between Marcio Silva de Melo and those whose lives he
touched during his teen years in Ballston Spa, NY were further strengthened when
Marcio’s daughter Natalia followed in her father’s Rotary footsteps during the
2006-2007 academic year.
The following is the first in a series of four articles written in 2013 by Ann
Former exchange student from Brazil reunites with
Ballston Spa Rotarians & host families after 40 years
When I opened an email with news that Marcio Silva de Melo of Brazil was
returning to Ballston Spa for a mid-winter visit, memories that had been frozen
in time for 40 years began to melt.
It wasn’t long before cherished images of the special bond we once shared as
teens began to blend with the joyful prospect of documenting Marcio’s reunions
with Ballston Spa Rotarians and some of the Rotary host families that had
welcomed him into their homes four decades ago.
The last time I saw Marcio was in the summer of 1972 as I was returning home
from a life-transforming year representing the Rotary Club of Ballston Spa in
Denmark where it seemed almost everyone had blonde hair and blue eyes. Hailing
from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Marcio’s tresses were not only dark, but also long
and lush, framing brown eyes that mesmerized because they seemed equally playful
But what had most impressed me about the Brazilian youth who had been welcomed
into my family’s home on Church Avenue in my absence was his unbridled passion
for everyone and everything he encountered in his new surroundings.
Whereas the members of my host families in Denmark had initially been reserved,
Marcio immediately embraced me as his “Rotary Sister” as well as referring to my
mother Audrey as “Ma” and my father Donald as “Dad.” He also found it as easy to
interact with my six brothers and three sisters as he would his own siblings.
Marcio’s infectious laughter reverberated within the walls of our home where a
den had been converted into his private man cave. His brand of Ping Pong
Diplomacy included spirited games of table tennis after singing along to
Beatles’ records while helping other Hauprich kids wash and dry enough dishes to
stock an Army mess hall.
No wonder there was a bounce in my middle-aged steps as I made my way to The
Back Room inside the Old Chocolate Factory on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 to
reunite with Marcio at a luncheon meeting of The Rotary Club of Ballston Spa!
Despite the passage of four decades, I instantly recognized Marcio by his
sparkling eyes and charismatic smile. And when he introduced his 16-year-old son
Gabriel, I couldn’t help but proclaim: “You look like a mirror image of your Dad
at your age – except for the hairstyle!”
Marcio and I were soon reminiscing as if four decades ago had been four days
ago. Shortly thereafter I watched with sisterly pride as Marcio made a brief,
but poignant, presentation to the Rotarians – some of whom hadn’t yet started
kindergarten when he was an exchange student in the village from the winter of
1971 to the winter of 1972.
The longtime member of the Rotary Club of Belo Horizonte-Sao Lucas who has been
nominated to serve as District Governor of Rotary International District 4520 in
2015 extended an invitation to the Rotary Club of Ballston Spa to become a
Sister Club. Forming such a relationship between the two clubs would “create a
channel for making good and decent friends and exchanging Rotary experiences
with one another,” he said.
Marcio also thanked members of the two local families
who said had “opened their
hearts and their homes to me” in a bygone era and who he said had “lived on in
my memories and in my heart ever since.”
In addition to his time as a member of the Hauprich household, Marcio was
welcomed during 1972 into the West High Street home of Claire Weaver and her now
late husband Howard and their three children. The bonds between Marcio and the
further strengthened when their daughter Kathy resided with the Melo
family during part of her 1972-1973 Rotary youth exchange experience in Brazil.
Hauprich son Francis later resided – and enjoyed vacation travels -- with the
Melos during an extended stay in Brazil in 1980. (Please
to view a
PDF with a related essay written by
Francis G. Hauprich
“Rotary helped with my cultural emancipation while my host families helped me
at my moral and character formation,” reflected Marcio, who will celebrate his
25th wedding anniversary this year with his wife and all four of their children.
Marcio also lavished praise on the Rotarians and families who had warmly
embraced his daughter Natalia
when she was an exchange student in the village
from 2006-2007. He also announced plans to spend as much time as possible during
his visit to Saratoga County with members of the Hauprich and Weaver families –
which he subsequently did. (See sidebar.)
As a token of his deep appreciation, Marcio – assisted by Gabriel who will spend
next year as a Rotary International exchange student in Taiwan -- presented to
Rotary Club of Ballston Spa with a customized circular leather tapestry
showcasing the Rotary International logo. The circle of friendship and goodwill
it represents is sure to endure for generations to come.
Gabriel, who has been chosen to represent his Brazilian Rotary District in
Taiwan during the forthcoming academic year, said the members of the Rotary Club
of Ballston Spa impressed him as being “very traditional” as well as “very
friendly and kind.”
“I feel like I am a member even though I am just an exchange student who will be
going to another country.”
The most important lesson Gabriel learned from accompanying his father to
reunion with former Rotary host families was the importance of family ties.
“My father’s Rotary host families in Ballston Spa helped him become the man he
is today and my father’s good example is helping me become the kind of man I
want to be. I have learned many things from my father, but the most important
has to do with the relationships between families. The Rotary host families in
Ballston Spa had a special connection with my father and my sister. They seemed
to be family by blood – a very strong bonding,” reflected Gabriel. (Click
to view a Ballston Journal video interview with Marcio Melo that was
conducted during his 2013 visit to Ballston Spa.)
The following is the second in a series of four articles written in 2013 by Ann
How strong bonds developed between village dentist
& family who opened doors to Marcio’s daughter Natalia
Fellow Ballston Spa Rotarians used to quip that village dentist Steve Esposito
“knew the drill” when it came to the protocol for greeting incoming
international exchange students at the airport.
But none could have predicted the lasting impression Esposito would make on a
South American teen named Natalia Melo who this December will graduate with a
degree in dentistry from Pontifícia Universidade Catolica de Minas Gerais, a
private college in Belo Horizonte which is recognized as being one of the best
colleges in Brazil.
Dr. Esposito recalls that Natalia took advantage of opportunities to observe the
day-to-day operations of an American dental practice by stopping by his offices
at the corner of Malta Avenue and Hyde Boulevard before returning to Brazil to
take difficult college entrance exams in 2007. “Since then Natalia has
corresponded by email keeping me informed of her progress,” said Dr. Esposito,
who was honored to receive an invitation to attend Natalia’s wedding to attorney
Gustavo Simões in 2014.
“Steve Esposito helped me a lot when I was an exchange student in Ballston Spa.
He knew what and how to tell me important advice and also make me feel that I
always have someone to go for whenever I needed to,” recalled Natalia.
Another Rotarian who had a profound influence on Natalia during her exchange
experience was Patricia Rutland, then the proprietor of The Patty-Cake Shoppe on
Brookline Road. “Patty made my year here as sweet as her cakes. She was such an
outstanding example of what it means to be a Rotarian, but all of the members of
the Ballston Spa Rotary Club have a very special place on my heart. That was
what made my exchange year so magical and full of learning. I will never forget
them and am so happy that my father and my brother finally got a chance to meet
Natalia was also delighted to learn that her father and brother had a chance to
meet Dianne and Dennis Martin who had been her host parents during much of her
exchange year. Natalia said the Martins’ three daughters -- Lindsey, Sarah and
Becky --treated her as a sister from Day One and that all of them remain close
to this day, frequently communicating via email, Facebook and Skype.
“Natalia (we called her Lia) was welcomed into our home as a family member
rather than as a long term guest. This, I believe, is one of the main reasons
that her time with us was such a positive experience and why we remain in touch
today,” said Mrs. Martin, adding the whole family hopes to be able to attend
Natalia’s Brazilian wedding.
(The challenge, she said, will be coordinating everyone’s schedules. As of
February 2013, Dennis was District Manager for Hannaford Bros.; Dianne was
raising awareness of Guiding Eyes for the Blind; Lindsey was the Study Abroad
Coordinator at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia; Sarah was a grad student
at SUNY/Albany and Program Assistant for U/Albany’s Weekend MBA Program; and
Becky was studying at U/Buffalo.)
“My sisters always had affection for me and treated me as if I was one of them.
My Pai (father) was such a sweetheart and my Mae (mother) became a great friend
and companion and gave me cherished memories. When I returned to Ballston Spa
after five years to visit, I stayed with the Martins and I still felt the same
way. In my heart, they are family by choice.”
Others who remain especially close to Natalia
include her “Gramma and Grampa Hauprich”
and former Ballston Spa High School classmate Kaleigh Sankowski and
her mother. “I believe in God and think that nothing is by coincidence. There
was a reason why these special people came into my life,” reflected Natalia.
The following is the third in a series of four articles written in 2013 by Ann
Former Rotary moms share Melo memories of Marcio
Bus driving mother of three Claire Weaver and school teaching mother of 10
Audrey Hauprich could rarely take time out from their hectic schedules to snap
photos when Marcio Melo of Brazil resided with their families just over 40 years
ago. But each of the now octogenarian great-grandmothers holds picture-perfect
memories of Marcio close to her heart as per the stories that follow in Parts 3
& 4 of this series.
It was within days of celebrating his 16th birthday in December 1971 that Marcio
Melo was warmly welcomed into the West High Street home of Claire and Howard
Weaver where their then three adolescent offspring (Gary, Kathy and Kevin) had
long since mastered the art of making visitors feel at home.
The Rotary International exchange student from Brazil reciprocated, calling his
host parents “Mom and Dad” and bonding in a brotherly manner with his host
“Marcio and Gary would talk for hours while he and Kevin enjoyed taking
snowmobile rides together,” recalled Mrs. Weaver. In an interesting twist, Kathy
ultimately became like a daughter to Marcio’s parents and a sister to his
siblings during a 1972-1973 Rotary exchange experience in Brazil.
“Marcio had such an outgoing personality that he easily made friends and I
couldn’t help but notice that he matured quite a bit between the time he arrived
here craving hotdogs at the end of 1971 and the time of his departure a year
later,” said Mrs. Weaver. (Marcio split his exchange year between Weaver and
Despite the demands of his entrepreneurial career and raising a family in the
decades that followed, Marcio remained in communication with the Weavers. He
even came to visit them in Ballston Spa in the late 1970s and sent a heartfelt
message of consolation upon the passing of Howard Weaver. Hearing a few years
later that Kathy Weaver Hanley and Mrs. Weaver would be attending the wedding of
a different former Rotary exchange student (Carlos Santamaria) in Argentina,
Marcio invited them to also spend quality time with his family in Brazil.
Even so, Mrs. Weaver said nothing could prepare her for the most recent reunion
on the evening of Monday, February 4, 2013 when Marcio called her from his hotel
room in Saratoga Springs and suggested they rendezvous for an impromptu dinner
at the nearby Olde Bryan Inn, which was once owned by Revolutionary War scout
“When Kathy and I headed out for the restaurant we knew Marcio’s 16-year-old son
Gabriel would be with him, but we had no idea just how much he would remind us
of his father at the same age,” said Mrs. Weaver. She was not surprised when
Marcio ordered his favorite side dish: mashed potatoes with gravy while Gabriel
wanted to sample French Fries, American-style.
“Gabriel was eager to know when it would start snowing – probably because he’d
heard so much about the heavy snowfalls we had when his father was here during
long ago winters,” mused Mrs. Weaver. The white flakes finally did fall in
abundance, but not until four days later when Marcio and Gabriel were en route
to a reunion with Brazilian relatives in Orlando, Florida.
In between the February 4 Olde Bryan Inn reunion and Marcio’s departure from
Saratoga County on February 7, he managed to sneak in a second reunion with Mrs.
Weaver on West High Street during which his wish to visit his old upstairs
bedroom was granted. Marcio also attended two meetings of The Rotary Club of
Ballston Spa and visited with members of The Hauprich Family. (See Part Four.)
The following is the fourth in a series of four articles written in 2013 by Ann
Marcio’s priceless parting gift to my family
If I could put time in a bottle, I’d definitely want to preserve the memory of
the moment on February 5, 2013 when my former host brother from South America
sang the praises of my parents before an assembly of the Rotary Club of Ballston
Instead of touching lightly on the months he had spent residing with my family
four decades earlier, Marcio Melo delivered an eloquent tribute to the profound
influence my now octogenarian mother and father had on his young life.
A lump rose in my throat as Marcio, a globe-trotting entrepreneur who also
represents one of the largest Rotary International districts in Brazil, shared
how my folks had strengthened his faith and his integrity.
“The seed of my conversion as a Catholic man started here in Ballston Spa, and
more precisely in the heart of the Hauprich family where matriarch Audrey had in
1972 already for a long time been connected with God in the ‘facebook’ of our
dear lord Jesus Christ,” proclaimed Marcio, who later lauded my father, Donald,
as an inspiring paternal Christian role model.
“I really want to thank God for putting Ballston Spa in my life just over 40
years ago,” the chairman of the Rotary Club of Belo Horizonte-Sao Lucas Youth
Exchange Program, told the upstate New York Rotary Club that had not only hosted
him in the early 1970s, but also Natalia – the eldest of his three daughters --
from 2006 to 2007. (See Part Two.)
“Since coming here for the first time, I never stopped learning about the values
of family and friendship,” said Marcio, who was accompanied at the February 2013
Rotary luncheon by his 16-year-old son Gabriel. (See Part One.)
“Rotary helped me with my cultural emancipation while my host families helped me
with my morals and my character formation,” he said. (To read about The Weavers,
with whom Marcio also recently reunited, please see Part Three
“The sands of time flow quickly and all too fast. The present turns to the past
and suddenly today becomes yesterday … forever. While we are still here, let’s
collect and share life’s values -- which will last forever serving and saving
our future generations.”
That evening, I had the honor of welcoming Marcio and Gabriel to my home so they
might enjoy a few hours with my parents and some of the 10 now grown “Hauprich
kids” who continue to regard the senior Melo as a brother. Adding to the
multigenerational merriment at the gathering were my nephew Matthew and my niece
Caitlin. David Sherwood, who was among the first to befriend Marcio at Ballston
Spa High School in a now bygone era, added to the festivities as my better half,
Cole Broderick, performed a variety of traditional American tunes – as well as
one from the Brazilian charts -- on our piano.
The reunion fun continued the next morning when my parents invited Marcio and
Gabriel to join them and my brother Francis (who once stayed with the Melos in
Brazil, but that’s another story!) for brunch inside their home. The Welcome Mat
was also rolled out on February 6 for Natalia’s former Rotary host parents
Dianne and Dennis Martin. (See Part Two.)
Heart warming private conversations followed between Marcio and my parents, who
he still affectionately calls “Ma” and “Dad.” (Click
or scroll down to bottom of this page for reunion video by Vinny Tucceri Jr.
of Ballston Journal.)
While some things are too personal to share on the Internet, I found it moving
to observe the unconditional love that continues to bind Marcio to my parents
and to Frank -- his “brother of the heart.” Marcio also has especially strong
ties to my youngest sister Mary because of the extra time she spent with Natalia
during her year in Ballston Spa and during a return visit in 2011.
Marcio said becoming a member of a variation on a “Cheaper by the Dozen
in 1972 “ignited my desire to learn to read, write and speak as much English as
possible because there were so many brothers and sisters that I was always
interacting with someone in the home. Nowadays it’s hard to find families of
this size – the big house on Church Avenue was like hotel with so many coming
and going throughout the day -- but the many Hauprich sons and daughters treated
me like I was their brother and respected me as a friend.”
Although his Rotary Dad was employed full-time in Albany while his Rotary “Ma”
was a full-time teacher at Malta Avenue Elementary School in the village, Marcio
said both found time in their busy schedules to be “real parents” to him. “I was
not treated like a visitor or a house guest, but like a son,” reflected Marcio.
“I even got to help wash and dry dishes with the other kids after supper and, of
course, to attend Mass at St. Mary’s Church on Sundays.”
In his words: “Ma was full of culture, with a vast vocabulary and the energy
needed to teach an adolescent like myself. I also grew to admire Dad’s patience
and have tried to model his good example as I have raised my own children.”
Another highlight of Marcio's
year as a Rotary exchange student was “being lucky
enough to meet Father William Tracy
, a Catholic priest from Ballston Spa who
spoke Portuguese because of his missionary work in Brazil. He helped me to build
the pillars of my faith which is still with me today and will remain with me for
Marcio Melo: From Brazil To Ballston And Back Again from Ballston Journal on Vimeo.