“My Mother the Performer”: The Life and Legacy of Dorothy Toy
In the late 1930s, Dorothy Toy and her dance partner Paul Wing made their Broadway debut after years touring on the Vaudeville circuit. In one of their earliest Broadway appearances, the duo, billed as Toy & Wing, performed in a musical review. That night, as Toy & Wing took their bows, the applause was thunderous. Dorothy later told her daughter that the audience got on their feet and applauded so vigorously the bandleader was forced to bring them out repeatedly – stalling the next act. Dorothy would say, she lost track of how many bows they took that night, but that they became a fixture on Broadway from then on.
Dorothy, Paul and a young Dorlie Fong dancing the cha cha during an encore performance. Courtesy of Dorlie Fong.
Dorothy Toy and dance partner Paul Wing (Toy & Wing) posing at the Forbidden City Nightclub in 1950’s San Francisco. Courtesy of Dorlie Fong.
Decades later, after founding her own dance company and touring the world, Dorothy Toy planned to visit StoryCorps with her daughter, to look back on a lifetime of performance. But she passed before that was possible. Dorothy was 102 years old when she died. She had suffered multiple broken hips and lived with dementia, but she considered herself a dancer well into her final years.
In March of 2021, her daughter Dorlie Fong came to StoryCorps to honor her mother. In that session she committed to tape many of Dorothy’s stories from a bygone era of Vaudeville, Hollywood, and Broadway. But beyond that, Dorlie described what it was like growing up backstage and finding connection with her mother the star.
Top Photo: (L) Dorothy Toy and her young daughter Dorlie Fong backstage in the 1950’s. (R) Dorlie with her mother on her 101st birthday. Courtesy of Dorlie Fong.
Bottom Photo: Dorothy Toy performing in her home dance studio in front of a CBS news crew. Courtesy of Dorlie Fong.
Originally aired April 2, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
StoryCorps 447: Forget Me Not
In this podcast we’re highlighting stories from our Memory Loss Initiative. These interviews help people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of memory loss get their stories on tape. It also lets family members and caretakers reflect on the impact the diagnosis has had on them.
We begin with the very first Memory Loss story we ever produced. In 2006, Priya Morganstern (above left) and Bhavani Jaroff brought their father, Ken Morganstern, to our recording booth in Grand Central Terminal. He was living with Alzheimer’s and the sisters wanted to record his memories while they still could. After Ken passed away in 2007, his daughters returned to StoryCorps to remember him.
From a story about a dad to one about a mom, Teresa Valko’s family has been battling Alzheimer’s disease for generations. She lives in California and her mother, Evelyn Wilson, lives in Georgia. Almost a decade ago, Evelyn began to show symptoms of memory loss, and Teresa remembers how their regular telephone conversations began to change.
Husband and wife Jo Ann and Bob Chew married later in life, a second marriage for both of them. Jo Ann, who is older than Bob, worried that one day he would have to take care of her. When they recorded this interview, Jo Ann was just beginning to show signs of early stage Alzheimer’s.
Like the music in this episode? Support the artists:
“Twelve Diseases” by Welcome Wizard from the album Lunachild
“A Spire” by Tape from the album Rideau
“Milo” by Fredrik from the album Trilogi
“Dunes” by Podington Bear from the album Solo Instruments
“Comptine d’un autre été – L’après-midi” by Yann Tiersen from the album Amélie from Montmartre (Bande originale du film)
Photo of Priya Morganstern, Ken Morganstern, and Bhavani Jaroff.
Teresa Valko’s family has been battling Alzheimer’s—a progressive disease that attacks the brain causing memory loss, the deterioration of thought and language skills, and changes in behavior—for generations.
According to Teresa, on her mother’s side of the family, there is a 100% occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease.
For many years, Teresa, who lives in California, would spend hours on the phone chatting with her mother, Evelyn Wilson (pictured above right), in Georgia (seen together below in Evelyn’s yard in 1980). But in 2007, Evelyn began to show the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
At StoryCorps, Teresa sat down with friends Lisa Farrell and Doris Barnhart to talk about her weekly telephone conversations with her mother and how they have changed over the years, as well as what she has learned about her own future health after undergoing genetic testing.
Originally aired November 13, 2015, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
NOTE: Two generations of Teresa’s family died of complications from Alzheimer’s including her aunt, uncle, grandmother, and all of her grandmother’s siblings. As of right now, none of her generation of family members have been diagnosed with the disease.
Photos courtesy of Teresa Valko.
Priya Morganstern and Bhavani Jaroff Update
For our 10th anniversary, we’re revisiting some favorite stories.
Priya Morganstern (L) and her sister, Bhavani Jaroff (R), first came to StoryCorps in 2006 to interview their father, Ken Morganstern, who had Alzheimer’s disease.
Ken died in 2007. Priya and Bhavani recently came back to StoryCorps to remember him.
Originally aired October 27, 2010 on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Barbara Handelsman and Aaron Handelsman
Growing up, Barbara Handelsman often felt out of sync with her family.
At StoryCorps, Barbara, 80, talks with her grandson Aaron, 20, about how the two of them have always had a special relationship that includes unconditionally accepting each other for who they are, and finding adventures to go on together.
Barbara passed away two years after this interview was recorded.
Originally aired October 11, 2013, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Carol Kirsch and Rebecca Posamentier
Rebecca Posamentier (above right) first came to StoryCorps in 2008 with her mother, Carol Kirsch, who had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Rebecca was hoping to record her mother’s voice and thoughts on tape before Carol ‘s condition worsened.
Carol died in March 2011, and Rebecca returned to StoryCorps to remember her mother.
Originally aired May 10, 2013, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Above: Carol with her granddaughter Sophie. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Posamentier.
Gweneviere Mann and Yasir Salem
Gweneviere Mann lost her short-term memory following surgery to remove a brain tumor. With the support of her boyfriend, Yasir Salem, Gweneviere found she could tackle the challenges her condition threw her way—and a few more.
At StoryCorps, Gweneviere and Yasir talked about how they’ve learned to navigate life in a new way, together.
Just a few weeks after their interview—and two days after their story was broadcast— Gweneviere and Yasir ran the 2011 New York City Marathon. They took a photo at the finish line, at left.
Click here to watch “Marking the Distance,” a StoryCorps animation of Gweneviere and Yasir’s story.
Originally aired November 4, 2011, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Robert Patterson and Karen Patterson
Bob Patterson worked as an aerospace engineer for over 30 years. In 2008, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. His wife, Karen, has been by his side all along. In this conversation, Bob tells her how living with the disease has affected him.
Originally aired August 27, 2010, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Florence Newman and her daughter Audrey
Audrey Newman (R) talks with her mother, Florence (L) who has Alzheimer’s, about her father, Joe Newman.
Gwen Richards remembers her mother, Helen, who had Alzheimer’s.