Love Stories – StoryCorps
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After Facing A Difficult Coming Out, One Couple Changed A Mother’s Heart

Leslye Huff (left) and her partner, Mary Ostendorf (right), met in 1983. Leslye was open about her feelings for Mary and wasn’t shy about publicly showing her affection—even on their first date. Mary felt less comfortable with public displays of affection and had not told many people in her life about her sexuality, including her family.

When Mary introduced Leslye to her mother, Agnes, they did not immediately reveal to her the nature of their relationship, but during that meeting Leslye felt a connection with Agnes. “I liked her. She was short like me, and pretty vivacious. She and I sat and talked and I thought the makings of a pretty good friendship was beginning.”

Later that year, days before they gathered for Thanksgiving, Leslye picked up the phone and told Agnes the truth about her relationship with Mary.

At StoryCorps, Mary and Leslye discuss what happened after the phone call and how their relationship with Agnes changed in the years that followed.

Since then, Leslye and Mary moved across the country to Berkeley, California so Leslye could pursue a seminary degree. She recently graduated.

Top Photo: Leslye Huff and Mary Ostendorf.

Originally aired November 27, 2016, on NPR’s Weekend Edition. It was rebroadcast on November 26, 2021 on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

“I Never Let Anything Stop Me”: One Woman Recalls Her Determination To Go To Space

When Wally Funk was 8 years old, she jumped off the roof of her barn while wearing a Superman cape, hoping to fly. That desire never left her, and as an adult she became a pilot and flight instructor. But for Wally, the ultimate destination was always outer space.

She almost got the chance to go in 1961. That year, she was part of a group of female pilots who took part in tests to determine if women were fit for space travel. The project was run by the same doctor who developed tests for NASA astronauts. The women, who became known as the Mercury 13, passed many of the same tests as the men, but never got to go to space. 

More than half a century later, Wally Funk hasn’t given up and at the age of 82, she’ll be joining the crew on the New Shepard rocket, which will be launching on July 20th, 2021. She’s expected to become the oldest person to reach space, beating John Glenn’s record set in 1998.

In 2017, she came to StoryCorps with one of her flight students, Mary Holsenbeck, to talk about her time training to be an astronaut.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREWally and Mary, circa 1993. Photo courtesy of Mary Holsenbeck.
Top photo:  Wally, circa 1960. Photo courtesy of Wally Funk.

Originally aired August 4, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition. It was rebroadcast on July 9th, 2021 on the same program.

A Dad Tells His Daughter About The Risk That Led Him To The Love Of His Life

Eddie Chang had just finished his junior year in college and was spending some time at his friend’s house in Chicago, when he got reacquainted with his friend’s older sister, E.F. Wen.

Two years older than him, E.F. happened to be home for the summer. She was always the well-liked one around the community, and her playful, rebellious energy caught his eye.

What happened that week sparked a romance that would last them four decades — until E.F. died after a battle with colon cancer.

Eddie came to StoryCorps with their youngest daughter Tria to remember how it all started, and recount all that he still loves about his late wife.

Top Photo: Tria Chang and Eddie Chang at their StoryCorps interview in San Francisco on May 6th, 2017. By Yosmay del Mazo for StoryCorps.
Middle Photo: Eddie Chang and E.F. Wen. Circa 1973
Bottom Photo: From left to right: Eddie Chang, E.F. Wen, Vanessa Chang, Tria Chang, & Meesha Chang. 1993 at Smith College.

Originally aired February 14, 2020 on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

New Year’s Eve With Spencer The Possum

’Tis the podcast season for difficult conversations, but on this New Year’s Eve episode, we’re bringing you something a little different; just one story that we couldn’t resist sharing.

Many people will be watching the ball drop in Times Square, but you’re probably unaware that the “real” action will be happening in Tallapoosa, Georgia. That’s where Bud and Jackie Jones, career taxidermists, live. They helped establish a completely different kind of New Year’s Eve tradition in their small town.

Bud and Jackie came to StoryCorps in 2018 to share the love story that helped launch it all.

Since the Tallapoosa Possum Drop began in the late 1990s, the event has grown from about 40 people to over 7,000 in attendance. That’s more than twice the population of Tallapoosa itself.

Top photo: Artwork by Lindsay Mound.
Middle photo: Bud and Jackie Jones in 2018 at their StoryCorps interview in Tallapoosa, Georgia. Photo by Brenda Norbeck-Ford for StoryCorps.
Bottom photo: Bud and Jackie Jones pose near “Spencer” at the Possum Drop in Tallapoosa, GA in 2014. Courtesy Bud Jones.

Released on December 31, 2019.

Like the music in this episode? Support the artists:
“Heat and Memory” by Jarrett Floyd
“Towboat Theme” by Blue Dot Sessions from the album Towboat

Swept Away: Falling for the Man with 600 Vacuums

We love a good love story here at StoryCorps. But this one? It sucks … just not in the way you might think. 

Tom Gasko has been a vacuum repairman for over 35 years. He also collects vacuums hundreds and hundreds of them and proudly displays them in his very own vacuum cleaner museum in a Rolla, Missouri strip mall. 

He came to StoryCorps to share his love for the machines with his husband, Donnie Pedrola. 

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Top photo: Donnie Pedrola and Tom Gasko at their StoryCorps interview in Rolla, MI on June 26, 2019. By Dupe Oyebolu for StoryCorps.
Bottom photo: In 2001, Tom got a tattoo of the logo of his favorite vacuum cleaner, The Airway from 1935. This is the same machine he hopes to spend eternity in. Courtesy Tom Gasko.

Originally aired September 6, 2019 on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

“There Was No Hanky Panky”: A Couple Reflects On The Friendship That Led To 70 Years Of Marriage

Julia and Joel Helfman met when they were just kids — at 12 and 13 years old. Their friendship blossomed into a decades-long love story. And together they had five kids of their own, as well as 11 grandchildren and eight great-grandkids.

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A few months before their 70th wedding anniversary, Joel and Julia sat down at StoryCorps to remember how it all began.

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Top photo: Julia and Joel Helfman on their wedding day in November 1949. Courtesy of the Helfman family. 
Middle photo: Joel and Julia Helfman (center) with their five kids, c. 1972. Courtesy of the Helfman family. 
Bottom photo: Julia and Joel Helfman at their StoryCorps interview in Philadelphia, PA in 2019. By Eleanor Vassili for StoryCorps.

Originally aired July 26, 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

A Teenage Romance, Rekindled After Three Decades

It was the spring of 1981 in Louisiana. Liz Barnez was 16 and Lori Daigle was 17. They met while playing on competing high school sports teams. When they joined the all-star softball team that summer, their friendship blossomed into something more.

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At StoryCorps in Fort Collins, Colorado, Liz and Lori sat down to reflect on their teenage romance, and how they reunited nearly 30 years later.

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They married in 2015 after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. That was more than 30 years after their first kiss.

Top photo: Lori Daigle and Liz Barnez at StoryCorps in Fort Collins, Colorado. Photo by Jacqueline Van Meter for StoryCorps.
Middle photo: Liz Barnez and Lori Daigle in the summer of 1981. Photo courtesy of Lori Daigle.
Bottom photo: Robert Herman, Lori Daigle, Liz Barnez, and Haley Daigle, from left to right, at Liz Barnez and Lori Daigle’s wedding in 2015. Photo by Kris Harmon and courtesy of Lori Daigle.

Originally aired March 8, 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

The Tallapoosa Possum Drop, a New Year’s Eve Tradition

New Year’s Eve in Times Square? Meh. The real action is in Tallapoosa, Georgia.

That’s where Bud and Jackie Jones, career taxidermists, live. They helped establish a completely different kind of New Year’s Eve tradition in their small town.

Bud and Jackie came to StoryCorps recently to share the love story that helped launch it all.

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Since the Tallapoosa Possum Drop began in the late 1990s, the event has grown from about 40 people to over 7,000 in attendance. That’s more than twice the population of Tallapoosa itself.

Jones_Extra_1

Top photo: Bud and Jackie Jones pose after their StoryCorps interview in Tallapoosa, GA in September 2018. By Kelly Moffitt for StoryCorps.
Middle photo: Bud and Jackie Jones pose together in 1963. Courtesy Bud Jones.
Bottom photo: Bud and Jackie Jones pose near “Spencer” at the Possum Drop in Tallapoosa, GA in 2014. Courtesy Bud Jones.

Originally aired December 28, 2018, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

A Wife Remembers Her Husband and the Stress of Family Farming

Springtime is planting season on farms all across the country. The stress of the season can take its toll: farmers have one of the highest suicide rates of any profession in the United States.

For more than 35 years, Matt Peters grew corn and soybeans on the Iowa farm that his father and grandfather farmed before him. Then in May of 2011, at the age of 55, he took his own life.

His wife, Ginnie Peters, came to StoryCorps to remember him. She spoke with Trent Andrews, the man who took over the farm after her husband’s death.

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Today, Ginnie lives a few miles away from the farm where she and Matt made their life together. Now and then she returns to visit Trent and his family, who continue to work the 1,500-acre farm.

Top photo: Trent Andrews and Ginnie Peters at their StoryCorps interview in Des Moines, Iowa, on April 19, 2018.

Bottom photo: Ginnie Peters and Matt Peters on vacation in February of 2011. Courtesy of Ginnie Peters.

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal or just needs someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Originally aired May 18, 2018, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Nudist Couple on Falling in Love and the Mistake Only a Nudist Would Make

We’re used to people baring their souls at StoryCorps, but this is a story about baring quite a bit more.  

Ten years ago, on Tracia Kraemer’s 40th birthday, she wanted to do something she’d never done before. So she gathered her courage and paid a visit to the last surviving nudist park in the state of Louisiana, Indian Hills.

She figured she’d at least wind up with a good story, but as she remembers in this conversation with her husband Patrick, she came away with a whole lot more.

Patrick and Tracia Kraemer

Tracia and Patrick married in 2013. Together they managed Indian Hills for several years.

Last fall, they took off in an RV for a year-long adventure visiting nudist establishments across the country.

Top photo: Patrick and Tracia Kraemer pose nude behind a tractor at the Indian Hills Nudist Park in 2015. Courtesy David Grunman / The Times-Picayune.

Bottom photo: Patrick and Tracia Kraemer at their StoryCorps interview in New Orleans, Louisiana in February of 2018.

Originally aired May 4, 2018, on NPR’s Morning Edition.