Playlist: 'Angels & Mentors'
Compiled By: StoryCorps
Stories about those people who really matter in our lives.
From StoryCorps | 01:31
Linda Kenney Miller (R) and her sister Diane Kenney (L) remember their grandfather, Dr. John A. Kenney, who founded the first hospital for African Americans in Newark, NJ.
In the 1920s, Dr. John A. Kenney left Tuskegee, Alabama after receiving death threats from the Ku Klux Klan. He moved to Newark, New Jersey, and helped found the city's first hospital for African-Americans.
Here, his granddaughters Linda Kenney Miller and her sister Diane Kenney remember their grandfather, and his dedication to the hospital.
From StoryCorps | 01:44
Lee Mottern tells his girlfriend, Linda Eldredge, a story about his Uncle Abe.
George Lengel remembers growing up in the company town of Roebling, NJ.
19-year-old Noe Rueda (R) talks to his high school economics teacher, Alex Fernandez (L), about growing up poor in Chicago.
19-year-old Noe Rueda grew up the eldest of four siblings on Chicago’s West Side.
Here he tells his high school economics teacher, Alex Fernandez, how he started his own business at the age of eight to help his single mother get by.
Steven Wells tells his daughter, Jennifer, how it felt to become a dad.
William Anthony Cobb tells his mother, Mary, about the influence she had on him. William Anthony also talks with his sister, Valerie Foster, about their mother.
William Anthony Cobb came to StoryCorps with his mother, Mary Cobb, and told her about the influence she had on him.
A few months after their interview, Mary passed away of pancreatic cancer at the age of 67. William Anthony then returned to StoryCorps with his sister, Valerie Foster, to remember their mother.
From StoryCorps | 03:03
Mary Johnson speaks with Oshea Israel, who killed her son in 1993.
Teacher John Byrne talks with his former student, Samantha Liebman, about coming out to his students.
Early in his teaching career, John Byrne was very strict, because he feared his students would find out he was gay.
Here, Byrne tells one of his former students, Samantha Liebman, how he eventually came out to his 10th-grade class.
Aimee Gerold speaks with her father, Bob, about her adoption from China.
Betsy Brooks tells her boyfriend, John Grecsek, about her father.
Growing up, Betsy Brooks had a turbulent relationship with her father, Charles. He was a military man and ruled his household with a firm hand. Years later, when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, their relationship took a turn.
Here, Brooks tells her boyfriend, John Grecsek, about her relationship with her father.
75-year-old Julian Walker tells his daughter, Julia Walker Jewell, about an accident his father had as a young boy.
Julian Walker's father, Robert Walker, grew up in a small farming town in North Carolina. At the age of 5, Robert was severely injured in a farming accident.
Here, Walker tells his daughter, Julia Walker Jewell, one of his lasting memories of his father.
From StoryCorps | 04:02
Father Michael Duffy remembers his friend, Father Mychal Judge, the first official victim of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.
Paul Crowley talks with his friend and fellow veteran Anthony Bravo Esparza, who calls himself "Dreamer," about the free haircuts he gives in a VA Hospital parking lot.
Many veterans seek out the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Hospital in hopes of feeling better. Thanks to Anthony Bravo Esparza — known to his friends as “Dreamer” — those veterans often end up looking better, too.
Since the 1970s, Dreamer, a veteran himself, has been giving free haircuts to vets.
He can be found in a red, white, and blue painted trailer parked at the VA, where he averages about 200 haircuts a month.
Last year, Paul Crowley showed up looking for a trim. Today, he’s Dreamer’s assistant.
At StoryCorps, the pair sat down to speak about their friendship.
Happy Dodson and Taz Roman, members of Bikers Against Child Abuse, talk about their work.
If you saw Happy Dodson and Taz Roman roaring down the street on their motorcycles, you might be surprised by where they’re going.
Happy and Taz are members of an international group called Bikers Against Child Abuse.
Social workers, cops, and others refer children who have been abused to the bikers, who have to pass a federal background check. When they don’t feel safe, the kids can call Happy, Taz and their biker friends who come straight to the child’s house.
Paramedic Rowan Allen talks to Bryan Lindsay about the day he saved his life.
In the summer of 1991, Bryan Lindsay was riding his bike on a Brooklyn street when he was hit by a van and almost killed.
He was seven years old at the time.
Rowan Allen was the paramedic on the scene, and recently the two men sat down at StoryCorps to remember that day.
Thomas Weller remembers how he got started helping strangers in need.
Thompson Williams talks about his father's legacy with his son, Kiamichi-tet Williams.
Thompson Williams grew up in Oklahoma as one of eight children. His father, Melford Williams, was a tribal leader of the Caddo Nation and a World War II veteran who had a big impact on Thompson’s life.
At StoryCorps, Thompson’s son, Kiamichi-tet, sat down with his dad to learn more about his grandfather.
Antero Garcia (R) talks to his former student Roger Alvarez (L) who dropped out...
Antero Garcia (R) taught Roger Alvarez (L) in his 9th grade English class at Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles.
That year, the school’s graduation rate was just 42 percent, and Roger was one of the students who didn’t make it through his senior year.
Roger dropped out in 2007 and hadn’t seen his former teacher until the two of them sat down together at StoryCorps.
When they recorded this interview, Roger was working the night shift at a loading dock, and he said he hopes to get his GED one day. Antero Garcia is now an Assistant Professor of English at Colorado State University.
Aja David and her younger sister, Kai Leigh Harriott, remember the night Kai was hit...
Fourteen-year-old Kai Leigh Harriott is paralyzed from the chest down, the result of a stray bullet that hit her when she was three.
She was sitting outside on her porch in Dorchester, Massachusetts with her older sister Aja David, who was babysitting at the time.
The family is still dealing with the aftermath of the shooting a decade later.
Rita Fischer (90) and Jay Fischer (65) recall the moment that Jay came out as...
90-year-old Rita Fischer and her son Jay interviewed each another at a StoryCorps booth in New York City.
They recalled a conversation they had back in the 1980s, when Jay first told Rita he was gay.
Warning: This clip features senior citizens dropping ‘f’ bombs.
Rita Fischer has walked in New York’s AIDS Walk since 1986. She has raised more than $800,000 in that time.
Kenny Thompson, a volunteer mentor, tells students Gary Barber and Dakota Gibson about discovering that...
Some students in the Spring Branch Independent School District in Texas dreaded lunchtime. The school cafeteria meant humiliation because their parents couldn’t afford a hot lunch.
The alternative for these kids was a cold cheese sandwich. Anyone seen leaving the lunch line with that on their plate was marked as being poor.
But that changed when school volunteer Kenny Thompson saw it happen. Kenny recently told that story to kids he works with, 13-year-old Gary Barber and 15-year-old Dakota Gibson.
Thanks to Kenny’s efforts, two school districts in Houston have changed their lunch policy. Now all kids receive the same lunch, whether or not they can afford it.
Epidemiologists Anne Purfield (L) and Michelle Dynes (R) talk about responding to the Ebola outbreak...
Anne Purfield (L) and Michelle Dynes (R) are epidemiologists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
They both volunteered to spend several weeks in Sierra Leone, responding to the Ebola outbreak there.
When they returned to the U.S., they came to StoryCorps to talk about what they saw.
Tina Vasquez tells her mother, Sonia Vasquez, about what it was like to grow up...
Tina Vasquez grew up just outside of New York City in the 1990s.
Her mother, Sonia, raised her with little help, and money was often tight for their family.
At StoryCorps, Sonia told Tina about how she’d take on several jobs to pay the bills.
Phil and Philip Mortillaro, a father-and-son locksmith team, talk about the family business.
For Phil Mortillaro, locksmithing was a summer job that turned into a lifelong passion. He started in the trade shortly after he left school in the 8th grade.
All five of his children grew up in his shop in Greenwich Village, but it was his youngest son, Philip, who has followed in his father’s footsteps.
Father and son sat down for a conversation at StoryCorps.
Seventeen years after Darius Clark Monroe robbed a bank at gunpoint, he came to StoryCorps...
In 1997, Darius Clark Monroe (L) was a high school honor student who had never been in serious trouble.
But soon after his 16th birthday, he robbed a bank in Stafford, Texas at gunpoint with two of his friends.
Seventeen years later, he sat down at StoryCorps with David Ned, a customer who was in the bank during the robbery.
David and Darius became acquainted while Darius was a film student making a documentary about the robbery called Evolution of a Criminal.
Hospice nurse and Retired Navy Corpsman Ron Riveira tells his friend, retired Army Medic Jason...
Ron Riveira is a hospice nurse in California.
He’s also a veteran who served as a Navy corpsman and medic for the Marines during the 1990s.
While deployed overseas, he crossed paths with Jason Deitch, who was an Army medic. They reconnected years later back in the States, and recently had a conversation for StoryCorps.
Here, Ron remembers his grandmother and grandfather -- a Korean War vet -- who helped raise him.
Retired Army Sgt 1st Class Max Voelz first recorded in 2011 to remember his wife...
Retired Army Sgt 1st Class Max Voelz first recorded in 2011 to remember his wife, Staff Sgt Kim Voelz. They met on Valentine’s Day, while training to work in Explosive Ordinance Disposal–the Army’s elite bomb squad.
Both Max and Kim were sent to Iraq in 2003. One night, Max called in the location of an explosive and Kim was sent to disarm it. She did not survive the mission.
Around the time Max recorded his first interview, he turned to another bomb tech, Sgt Mary Dague, for support. Mary lost both of her arms in Iraq.
She talked Max through his lowest points, but they didn’t meet face to face until years later, when they recorded for StoryCorps.
Miguel Alvarez (L) and Maurice Rowland (R) remember caring for residents at an assisted living home, where they were a janitor and a cook, when it closed suddenly, leaving many elderly residents abandoned.
In 2013, Maurice Rowland (R) was working as a cook at Valley Springs Manor, an assisted living home for elderly residents in California. He got his friend Miguel Alvarez (L) a job there as a janitor last fall.
But in October of that year the company that managed the home suddenly shut it down, leaving many of the elderly residents with nowhere to go.
The staff stopped being paid so they all left, except for Maurice and Miguel.
At StoryCorps they remembered caring for abandoned residents until the fire department and sheriff took over three days later.
The incident led to legislation in California known as the Residential Care for the Elderly Reform Act of 2014.
Ruth Coker Burks tells her friend Paul Wineland about caring for AIDS patients during the...
Ruth Coker Burks was in her early 20s and raising a small child when the AIDS epidemic hit Arkansas, her home state.
Although she had no formal medical training, Ruth took it upon herself to care for AIDS patients who were abandoned by their families and medical professionals who feared the disease.
Ruth estimates that she has cared for nearly 1000 people since the 1980s. One of those people was Paul Wineland’s partner.
At StoryCorps Ruth told Paul about how she got started after visiting a friend at a hospital where one of the state’s early AIDS patient was dying.
Listen to Ruth’s interview with Jim Harwood, the father of another AIDS patient she cared for during this time.
Sean Fitzpatrick and Officer John Gately remember the day back in 2003 when Sean came to school with a gun.
Eleven years ago, Sean Fitzpatrick was a high school junior in Spokane, Washington.
He had developed paranoid schizophrenia and was hearing voices -- but he didn’t tell anyone.
One morning, Sean went to school with a gun and a plan -- to barricade himself in a classroom, pretend he had hostages, and force police to kill him.
Sean’s plan didn’t work -- but at the end of the standoff he was shot in the face and still has difficulty speaking.
John Gately of the Spokane Police Department was the officer assigned to negotiate with Sean.
They recently sat down at StoryCorps to remember that day in 2003. Sean now works to educate law enforcement on handling encounters with people in the midst of a mental health crisis.
Lucille Horn, 95, tells her daughter, Barbara, about the baby incubator exhibit at Coney Island that saved her life.
For decades, Brooklyn’s Coney Island was known for sideshows featuring tattooed ladies, sword swallowers, and Dr. Martin Couney’s incubator babies.
Dr. Couney pioneered the use of incubators to keep premature infants alive in the late 1800s. But the medical establishment initially rejected the practice. So, each summer for 40 years, Dr. Couney funded his work by setting up an exhibition of the babies and charging the public admission.
Parents didn’t have to pay for the medical care, and many children survived who would have never had a chance otherwise.
Ninety-five-year-old Lucille Horn was one of them. Here, she tells her daughter, Barbara, about spending the summer of 1920 in an incubator on Coney Island.
Flight nurses Wilson Matthews and Jeanne Yeatman talk about their work aboard emergency response helicopters and their attempts to save a child who was severely injured in a bicycle accident.
For more than a decade, Wilson Matthews and Jeanne Yeatman worked together as flight nurses, caring for patients being transported to hospitals on emergency response helicopters.
They came to StoryCorps to talk about their most memorable flight, which took place in 2001.
Wilson and Jeanne were called in to save a 13-year-old named Stephen Wright, who had been severely injured in a bike accident.
To learn more about Stephen Wright, visit his family’s memorial website, Help for Those Who Grieve.
Roberto Olivera tells his wife, Debra, about growing up with an abusive stepfather and how his mother helped him escape.
Roberto Olivera grew up in the 1960s just outside of Los Angeles, California.
As a teenager, he worked multiple jobs to support his family, but would come home to a physically and verbally abusive stepfather.
At StoryCorps, Roberto tells his wife, Debra, about how his mother helped him escape.
Tyra Treadway and her daughter, Ardyn, remember their husband and father, Dr. James Kent Treadway, a beloved pediatrician in New Orleans. Dr. Treadway committed suicide three months after Hurricane Katrina.
Dr. James Kent Treadway was a beloved pediatrician in New Orleans for nearly 30 years.
Children loved him for his eccentric costumes and his ability to make even the most nervous patients laugh.
But after Hurricane Katrina, hearing his patients’ grief took a toll on him. Two months after the storm, he committed suicide.
At StoryCorps, his wife, Tyra Treadway, and his daughter, Ardyn, remember him.
Adam Graff, a member of New Orleans' all-volunteer, mental health crisis unit, speaks with his wife, Jacqueline, about the surge in patients after Hurricane Katrina.
Adam Graff is a member of New Orleans’ all-volunteer, mental health crisis unit.
The group works with the New Orleans Police Department and is often described as a SWAT team for mental illness and suicide crisis situations.
After Hurricane Katrina, Adam and his colleagues helped residents cope.
At StoryCorps, he sat down with his wife, Jacqueline, to talk about his work.
Tom Graziano remembers how his son’s elementary school principal and the community responded when they learned that his son was HIV positive.
In the early 1980s, Tom Graziano and his wife adopted an almost 2-year-old boy named John. As a child, he was constantly sick, but doctors where never able to determine why.
In 1986, when John was in the second grade at Central Elementary School in Wilmette, Illinois, his parents discovered the reason for his health problems—John was HIV positive having contracted the disease from his biological mother.
At StoryCorps, Tom sat down with John’s elementary school principal, Paul Nilsen, to discuss the reaction of other students attending the school and among members of their suburban Chicago community to John during the AIDS epidemic in America.
John died in May 1989, just days shy of his 10th birthday.
Chloe Longfellow came to StoryCorps to remember some of the life lessons she learned as a kid, while spending time in her grandmother’s kitchen.
With her mother away, Chloe spent a great deal of time at her grandparents’ home becoming especially close with her grandmother, Doris Louise Rolison.
Despite living in the Arizona desert, Doris, who died in May, 1988, at the age of 67, maintained a lush garden of herbs and vegetables. Chloe would help harvest the food to make dishes from recipes found in one of her grandmother’s treasured cookbooks.
At StoryCorps, Chloe remembers the happy memories and life lessons taught to her by her grandmother, many of which took place while cooking in Doris’ kitchen.
François Clemmons played Officer Clemmons on "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood." He came to StoryCorps to discuss the role and his life.
Tom Houck shares memories of dropping out of high school in 1965 to fight for civil rights, and becoming Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s personal driver.
In 1965, Tom Houck was a high school senior when he decided to drop out of school and join the fight for civil rights.
Leaving Jacksonville, Florida, and heading to Selma, Alabama, Tom, 19, eventually met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and quickly volunteered to work for Dr. King’s Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
Soon after his arrival in Atlanta, Tom was invited to the King home for lunch and Dr. King’s wife—Coretta—asked him to become the family’s driver.
Tom, who has continued to spend his life fighting for civil rights, came to StoryCorps with his friend, Angelo Fuster (pictured below left), to share memories of his time with the King family.
Civil rights lawyer Vito de la Cruz grew up in a family of migrant farmworkers. He describes his childhood and the loving aunt who raised him.
Vito de la Cruz’s parents were already separated when he was born, and when he was 6 months old, his father left him in the care of his 19-year-old aunt, Iris de la Cruz, a woman he called Nena.
Vito’s extended family traveled the migrant trail, finding work on farms across the United States. At 5 years old, Vito joined them in the fields. He remembers the excitement of traveling in the summers with his aunts, uncles, and grandmother from tomato fields in South Texas, to cherry orchards in Ohio, and sugar beet farms in North Dakota. During the days, they worked side-by-side, and in the evenings, they gathered together for dinner.
But their family’s migrant lifestyle was not easy; it was “equal parts hardship and poverty.” When he was 13, Border Patrol agents raided the farm where Vito and his family were working and rounded up undocumented workers. Witnessing workers’ fear of law enforcement struck a “profound chord in his being” and changed the course of his life.
Vito had always excelled in school, with Nena’s encouragement. She, herself, was the first person in the de la Cruz family to graduate high school, and she later went on to college. Following Nena’s example, Vito left South Texas for Yale University and then went on to attend law school at the University of California, Berkeley.
After law school, Vito began volunteering with the United Farm Workers union and focused the early part of his legal career on immigrant and farmworker rights. Years later, he became a federal public defender in Nevada before moving to Bellevue, Washington, where he continues to practice civil rights law.
Vito came to StoryCorps with his wife, Maria Sefchick-Del Paso, to remember how his childhood and his loving Nena shaped his future.
Vito’s story is one of 53 work stories featured in our new book, Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work, now available in bookstores.
Mary Johnson-Roy first came to StoryCorps in 2011 to talk about her bond with the young man who killed her son. Years later, she married a man who lives with a similar tragedy. StoryCorps brings an update to her story.