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The Unedited StoryCorps Interview: Julie Stolzberg and Abigail Pogrebin

“I know that you can go through great sadness and still be a very happy person.”

While many StoryCorps listeners are familiar with the audio pieces we share on NPR’s Morning Edition and our podcast, StoryCorps interviews are really much longer conversations. For 40 minutes, participants are invited to sit down and have a meaningful conversation with someone they know and care about. These interviews can take place in one of our Storybooths or in another private space with a trained StoryCorps facilitator present.

Currently our archives house over 65,000 of these conversations, and because they are fascinating complete looks into people’s lives, and offer insight into the mechanics of a StoryCorps interview, we have started to bring these to you unedited.


lsk001520_g2In this conversation, Julie Stolzberg, 43, is interviewed by her friend Abigail Pogrebin (pictured together at left with Julie’s husband Craig). Abigail asks Julie about her family memories, her love of teaching, and the birth of her children.

Julie and Abigail recorded their interview in February 2016 in New York City. The interview was part of a collaboration between Mount Sinai Hospital and StoryCorps’ Legacy Program, which provides people of all ages with serious illness and their families the opportunity to record, preserve, and share their stories through partnerships with healthcare organizations across the country.

Julie, a teacher and mother of two, passed away in March, shortly after this conversation was recorded. More than 900 people attended her memorial service.

In her interview, Julie reflects on being the daughter of Japanese-American parents and describes her parents’ childhood experiences being interned during WWII. Julie’s father was taken to a camp in California as a young boy. “He was a great eater but the only food that he would not eat as an adult was okra because it was a food that he associated with being in the camps.” Julie says, “to this day I’ve never tried okra out of respect…to stand in solidarity.”

Julie also talks about losing her mother to Multiple Sclerosis at the age of 14. She remembers how her father kept her mother’s memory alive for the family. “I felt like that was giving us permission to see her as a real person, that we could talk about her and that she could be with us, even if she couldn’t be with us physically.”

Click here to download a PDF transcript of this interview.

Julie worked for many years as a school teacher in Newton, Massachusetts, and in New York City. She remembers meeting her husband Craig, a PE teacher, on her first day of work at The Dalton School. Julie reflects on falling in love with Craig and starting a family with him. “There’s never been a day that I’ve felt he didn’t love me more than the day before. I want [my kids] to know that marrying their father was the best thing I ever did. I feel very confident that he will keep me alive in the same way my dad kept my mom alive. I take great comfort in that. I know that you can go through great sadness and still be a very happy person.”

Click here for more information about Legacy.

Disclaimer: All material within the StoryCorps collection is copyrighted by StoryCorps. StoryCorps encourages use of material on this site by educators and students without prior permission, provided appropriate credit is given. This interview has not been fact-checked, and may contain sensitive personal information about living persons.
Above (clockwise from top left): Julie, Craig, Tai, and Emi photo courtesy of Craig Stolzberg.

The Unedited StoryCorps Interview: Phil Avillo and Susan Scherr

“I wasn’t injured, I was wounded. Big difference. Your mother used to say, ‘Before his accident’ meaning, like, getting shot, I would say, “Linda, it wasn’t an accident, somebody was trying to kill me.”

Phil-Avillo-July-1965-Qui-Nhon,-Vietnam-512x348While you are used to hearing the audio pieces we share on NPR’s Morning Edition and our podcast, StoryCorps interviews are really much longer conversations—about 40 minutes—that take place between two people in a booth or other private space with a trained StoryCorps facilitator present.

Currently our archives house over 65,000 of these conversations, and because they are fascinating complete looks into people’s lives, and offer insight into the mechanics of a StoryCorps interview, we have started to bring these to you unedited.

This discussion, between Phil Avillo, 73, and his daughter, Susan Scherr, 36, was recorded in York, Pennsylvania, in November 2015, and covers two StoryCorps programs: the Military Voices Initiative (MVI) and Legacy. MVI provides a platform for veterans, service members, and military families to share their stories in order to honor their voices and amplify their experiences, while Legacy provides people of all ages with serious illness and their families the opportunity to record, preserve, and share their stories through partnerships with organizations across the country.

You may notice that Phil and Susan are pictured below not in a StoryCorps booth or medical facility, but in his home. The unique Legacy “train the trainer” model allows partner organizations like Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center (who have recorded over 30 interviews with StoryCorps), to train their own facilitators who then record interviews with participants in a variety of locations.

lsk001470_g1Phil, a former Marine who fought in the Vietnam War (pictured above in 1965), was recently diagnosed with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Phil talks with Susan about how his recent diagnosis has affected his life, and sheds light on his approach to living with a disease with no known cause, cure, or long-term treatment. “It’s not like I’m 25, you know. I think this disease is—as insidious as it is—is cruelest, and think all diseases are cruelest, when they hit younger people. If I were forty and you kids were young and this was happening to me, I would be beside myself.”

He also reflects on his service during the Vietnam War where he lost his left leg in combat on December 7, 1965—making him, as he puts it, a Pearl Harbor Day survivor of sorts—and telling Susan that the amputation infused him with a confidence he never before had leading his life to take on a feeling of urgency.

Phil also discusses the loss of his mother at a young age, meeting and marrying his wife, and the full life he now enjoys despite the challenges he confronts daily.

Click here to listen to the interview.

Click here to download a PDF transcript of this interview.

Click here for more information about Legacy.

Click here for more information about the Military Voices Initiative.

Disclaimer: All material within the StoryCorps collection is copyrighted by StoryCorps. StoryCorps encourages use of material on this site by educators and students without prior permission, provided appropriate credit is given. This interview has not been fact-checked, and may contain sensitive personal information about living persons.

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