StoryCorps | KUOW News and Information

StoryCorps

The StoryCorps trailer at the New Holly campus in Seattle.
Credit KUOW photo/Arvid Hokanson

In the 1990s, Johnny Holmes was head of security at a high school in Blue Island, Ill., when he met Christian Picciolini, a teenage student who was the leader of a local neo-Nazi group.

"I put you through hell," 43-year-old Picciolini said to Holmes during a recent visit to StoryCorps. It was the first time in 18 years the two had sat down with each other to talk. "I mean there were fights, there were words that we had those years that I was there."

Holmes, who is 71 and a school board member now, agreed, describing Picciolini as rough at the time.

Josh Hanagarne is a dad, a librarian and an author. He also has an extreme form of Tourette's syndrome. But he doesn't let it and his tics — his involuntary movements and sounds — stop him from living his life. He says he actually chose to work in a library because it was the quietest place he knew of.

Josh first started showing symptoms of Tourette's syndrome when he was in elementary school, about the same age that his son Max is now.

Editor's Note: This story contains a quote where a racial slur is used.

Francine Anderson grew up in a small town in Virginia in the 1950s. As a young black girl, she knew all too well about racism in the Jim Crow South — but it wasn't until one night, driving back home from her grandmother's house, that she truly understood the danger she faced because of the color of her skin.

Being a dad is not just about biology.

Juan Calvo and his husband, Darrow Brown, know that fatherhood isn't limited to a science. In 2007, after Calvo volunteered to care for drug-addicted infants in Baltimore, he knew he wanted to do more.

So, Calvo and Brown became foster dads. The two still remember the moment they met their first foster child.

"The worker came in, she chatted a bit, then left some formula and said, 'Here, here you go. Sign this paper,' " Calvo says. "And this little baby, he was so beautiful."

When Anthony Planakis was going through the New York Police Academy, they told him to write his interests down on a little card.

"Beekeeping, of course I put that down," says 54-year-old Planakis, who is a fourth generation beekeeper. "And the very first job, the sergeant comes right up to me and I just look up and go, 'Hey, Sarge,' and he goes, 'Bees?' and I go, 'Yeah, where?' 'Harlem.' And I go, 'Cool.' That was it, that was the first job I handled," he says.

Memorial Day weekend is a time when a lot of Americans remember those who have served and lost their lives during war — and not all of those individuals were U.S. citizens.

When the Iraq war started, nearly 40,000 members of the military were not U.S. citizens. Army Pfc. Diego Rincon was one of them.

In 1989, his family immigrated to the U.S. from Colombia. In 2003, he was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq. He died for his country even though he wasn't a citizen.

Editor's Note: This story contains a quote where a racial slur is used.

Calvin Burns has trouble getting his 15-year-old daughter, Stepheni Bellamy, to talk to him. It's something many parents of teenagers can relate to.

He hoped that doing a StoryCorps interview — and sharing stories from his own teenage years — might help her open up.

Burns tells her when he was growing up, he was usually the only black kid in school and often felt left out.

Chris López always knew there was something a little different about her youngest child, Gabe. Although assigned female at birth, Gabe, 9, always knew he was a boy.

Things really changed for Gabe when when he spent a weekend at a camp for transgender kids when he was 8 years-old.

Michael Ryan, 45, is a juvenile judge in Cleveland, Ohio. And like many of the kids who end up in his courtroom, he didn't have an easy childhood.

He adored his mother, he tells his son — also named Michael, 19, at StoryCorps in Cleveland, but she was addicted to heroin.

This weekend marks 75 years since President Roosevelt's executive order that sent Japanese-Americans to internment camps.

Roy Ebihara and his wife, 82-year-old Aiko, were children then, and both were held in camps with their families.

At StoryCorps, 83-year-old Roy told Aiko about what happened in his hometown of Clovis, N.M., in the weeks just before the executive order was issued.

On Dec. 24, 1956, when Judy Charest was 3 months old, her father went to take a shower and when he came out, Judy and her mother, Marguerite Hunt, were gone.

"She had driven to the Shelby Street Bridge, and with me in her arms, she jumped 90 feet," Judy recounts for 90-year-old Harold Hogue during a recent visit to StoryCorps in Nashville, Tenn.

Harold, who worked as an engineer with the Nashville Bridge Co. at the time, was part of a group of people who ran to the river after someone spotted her mom floating in it.

As a child, Francisco Ortega lived in rural Tijuana, Mexico, 100 miles south of where he lives with his family now.

"We were so poor, but I used to say my mother kept the best dirt floors ever," he told his 16-year-old daughter, Kaya during a recent visit to StoryCorps. "They were the cleanest dirt floors in the planet.

Dr. Joseph Linsk grew up on Atlantic Avenue in the uptown section of Atlantic City, N.J., in the early 1930s. It's an area where he's spent most of his life and where he practiced medicine starting in the 1940s, specializing in cancer and blood diseases.

Now 94 years old, the former hematologist and oncologist is failing in health, as he battles Parkinson's disease. This grave illness, however, is only one part of a perennial struggle Linsk faces. For more than 80 years, he has kept a secret. And it's one about which we're kindly requesting your help.

On a late summer day in 2010, John T. Williams, a Native American woodcarver, was walking across the street carrying his carving knife and a small piece of wood when he was shot and killed by a Seattle police officer.

"He was carving an eagle at the moment," his brother Rick recalls, on a recent visit with StoryCorps. Rick tells his friend Jay Hollingsworth that his brother loved to carve — had been carving even at age 4, when he completed his first totem pole. He says John could walk and carve at the same time, and that was just what he was doing, carrying his knife openly.

Ten years ago, a gunman barricaded himself inside a one-room Amish schoolhouse near Lancaster, Pa. Then he opened fire.

Charles "Charlie" Roberts killed five children and injured five others before killing himself.

The Amish community responded in a way that many found surprising: They forgave the shooter. And, in the years since, they have grown close to his family.

"I will never face my Amish neighbors again"

Nearly 9 million miles and counting.

That's how many miles Idella Hansen and Sandi Talbott have between them. The best friends and big-rig truckers have been at it for an awfully long time. But back when they started, they were a rarity on the road.

"There weren't that many women out here driving trucks," Talbott recalls with Hansen, on a recent visit with StoryCorps. "And my husband's health was not good; he only had one leg, so consequently I did all the driving."

When Melva Washington Toomer joined her father on a visit with StoryCorps recently, their conversation was quite unlike anything that has been featured in the series' 10-year history. That's because she spoke with her dad, John Carter Washington, relying not on her voice but on a TeleBraille machine.

Washington is blind and deaf. So was his late wife, in fact — and together, they raised three children, including Melva, the oldest.

Back in the early '60s, computer dating was a pretty new idea. Only a handful of services existed and they used massive computers — the size of an entire room — to calculate compatibility.

But John Matlock and his future wife, Carol, both decided to take a chance on the new technology.

They filled out questionnaires about themselves and put them in the mail.

Their answers were fed into the computer on a punch card.

Then, they waited for a match.

When 8-year-old Savannah Phelan came across a video recently, she found herself brimming with questions she didn't know the answer to. That's because the online video depicted her mom, Kellie, talking about being pregnant while serving time in New York City's Rikers Island jail complex.

Charles Jones' 12-year-old son, Malik, has autism. When he found out, Jones says, the news came as a shock — and fodder for plenty of fears.

"It was like a shot in the gut," he says. "I thought my son would be nonverbal, that he would never say 'I love you.' But when he started talking he wouldn't shut up."

Gene and Carolyn Shoemaker made a life together gazing at the stars. For 17 years, the couple worked side by side — Gene, as a renowned astrogeologist, studying planets and other celestial bodies, and Carolyn, who had turned to astronomy later in life yet discovered more comets than most pros.

"When I was 50 years old and my kids were grown, Gene suggested, well, maybe I would like to try my hand at astronomy a little bit," Carolyn tells her son-in-law Phred Salazar, on a recent visit with StoryCorps.

When he was just 2 weeks old, Ibukun Owolabi's mother died suddenly and unexpectedly. It fell to his then-teenage sister Alice to help raise him instead.

"It's still really hard to talk about her," Alice says of their mother, "because her passing was around the same time as you being born."

On a recent visit with StoryCorps, Alice, now 25, talked with her 10-year-old brother about the mother they shared — but whom he never really knew. That doesn't mean he wasn't loved by her, though.

Marine 1st Lt. Ernesto Rodriguez is a father of two. When he deployed to Iraq in 2005, he had only recently become a dad. When he got back, he struggled to hold his life together.

But he'd never spoken about those times with his son, Sebastian, until they sat down for a StoryCorps interview.

Francisco Preciado came to California from Mexico as a young child. By the early 1980s, he was raising a young family of his own in the U.S. and working as a groundskeeper at Stanford.

On a recent visit to StoryCorps, his son, Frankie, recalls, "Since I was around 9 or 10, I would come sometimes with you to help you on campus."

"I told you that one day, you were going to go here to Stanford," answers Francisco.

Sharon Long found her calling later in life. Back in the 1980s, she was a single mom trying to support her two kids, holding down several jobs at once — none of which she liked much.

"I worked at the Dairy Queen, and I cleaned a dentist's office, and I was a secretary," Long recalls, on a recent visit with StoryCorps. "I hated every morning I got up."

But, as she tells her colleague Steve Sutter, everything changed for her at age 40. When she she took her daughter to register for college, a financial aid officer persuaded Long to enroll herself.

Earlier this year, when her father was in the final stages of lung and liver cancer, Eva Vega-Olds spoke to him for the final time. Leonardo Vega, 73, had been in hospice care at his home in New Jersey, so weak that he could barely muster the strength to answer his daughter's questions.

But still, Eva asked them — and took the opportunity to tell her father what he meant to her. And she recorded the conversation for StoryCorps, using her smartphone.

Seattle.gov

On today's installment of StoryCorps from Seattle's New Holly neighborhood, Gerald Hankerson talks to Rachael DeCruz about the mental tricks he used to survive 22 years  in prison, many in solitary. Today Hankerson is president of both the NAACP's Seattle King County branch and the three-state conference overseeing Alaska, Oregon and Washington. This talk was recorded last summer in the StoryCorps booth. 

His is not just a gentle voice; for many people, it's a very familiar one, too. For 25 years, Francois Clemmons played a role on the beloved children's program Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Clemmons joined the cast of the show in 1968, becoming the first African-American to have a recurring role on a kids TV series.

And, as it happens, it was Clemmons' voice that Fred Rogers noticed, too, when he heard Clemmons singing in church.

Georgette Magnin and Heather Pierce at the StoryCorps booth in New Holly.
Courtesy of StoryCorps

Georgette Magnin speaks with her decades-long friend Heather Pierce about Magnin meeting and proposing to her wife, and how life changed for her when her wife died. They recorded this talk last August at the StoryCorps booth in Seattle's New Holly neighborhood.

Mara Willaford on the podium at a rally for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in August.
KUOW Photo/Hannah Burn

In August, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was in downtown Seattle for a rally. As he started speaking, he was interrupted by two women who are part of the Black Lives Matter movement. Their simple act – taking the mic – sent the country into heated debate.

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