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 Hauprich.

Former exchange student from Brazil reunites with
Ballston Spa Rotarians & host families after 40 years

Marcio Silva de Melo with Ballston Spa, NY host parents Donald and Audrey Hauprich in 1972.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.

Ann Hauprich as a teenaged Rotary International exchange student to Denmark during the 1971-1972 academic year.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 and soulful.

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.

Teenaged Rotary International exchange student Marcio Silva de Melo with classmate Dave Sherwood and Rotary host brothers Francis and William in 1972.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 Weavers 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 CLICK HERE 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.

Marcio introduces his son Gabriel to host parents Audrey & Donald Hauprich and host brother Frank.“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 here 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 Hauprich.

How strong bonds developed between village dentist
& family who opened doors to Marcio’s daughter Natalia

Natalia Melo arrives at Albany Airport in 2006. Photo by Ann Hauprich.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, Natalia and Gabriel Melo and their father Marcio.“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 them.”

Natalia's father Marcio and brother Gabriel meet her host parents Dianne and Dennis Martin.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.)

Natalia in front of Hauprich family homestead.“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 Hauprich.

Former Rotary moms share Melo memories of Marcio

Marico Melo as a Rotary exchange student in 1972.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 siblings.

“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 Hauprich households.)

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 Alexander Bryan.

Gabriel Melo and his father Marcio in 2013.“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 Hauprich.

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 Spa, NY.

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.

Donald and Audrey Hauprich with Marcio Melo and his son Gabriel during 2013 visit to Ballston Spa NY.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.

Marcio Melo and son Gabriel visit Ballston Spa in 2013.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 here 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” family 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 eternity.”


Marcio Melo: From Brazil To Ballston And Back Again from Ballston Journal on Vimeo.