Cleveland Archives - 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. 

A False Witness and the Man He Put in Prison for Decades

On May 19, 1975, a money-order salesman named Harold Franks was murdered during a robbery at a small grocery store in Cleveland.

That’s when the lives of Rickey Jackson and Eddie Vernon became forever entwined.

They grew up in the same neighborhood: Eddie was the paperboy for Rickey’s family, and friends with Rickey’s younger brother. At the time of the murder, Rickey was 18 and Eddie was 12.

After hearing gunshots while coming home on the school bus, one of Eddie’s classmates told him Rickey was involved in Frank’s murder. Eddie  told the police and then became the main witness in the case against Rickey, even though Eddie hadn’t actually witnessed the murder. Eddie testified in trial because, he says, police pressured him to lie and threatened his family.

Rickey was convicted of the murder, along with two friends Wiley and Ronnie Bridgeman. Rickey served nearly four decades in prison, turning down chances for parole because he maintained his innocence.

He remained there until 2014, when Eddie, at the age of 52, came forward with the truth. This information led to Rickey’s release and cleared the convictions of the Bridgeman brothers. The murder of Harold Franks remains unsolved.

After his release, Rickey reached out to Eddie and met with him. Three years later, they sat down for StoryCorps to have their first in-depth conversation about what happened.

Photo: Rickey Jackson (left) and Eddie Vernon at their StoryCorps interview in Cleveland. 

Originally aired January 5, 2018, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Michael Benjamin Ryan and Michael John Ryan

As a juvenile court judge in Cleveland, Ohio, Judge Michael Ryan encounters many children who have had a tough start in life. At StoryCorps, Ryan explains to his 19-year-old son — also named Michael — that he knows where these kids are coming from.

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During his own childhood in Cleveland during the 1970s, Ryan lived in a violent household where he often witnessed his heroin-addicted mother endure beatings from his stepfather.

He sought refuge in books, went on to study law, and eventually gained a seat on the bench at Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court. But Ryan’s difficult childhood didn’t just motivate him to better his own life — it shaped who he is as a dad and what he wants for his own children.

Originally aired February 24, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Bottom photo: Judge Ryan and his son, Michael, at Michael’s graduation on May 31, 2015. Courtesy of the Ryan family.

Bob Chase Sr. and Bob Chase Jr.

Bob Chase Sr. talks with his son Bob Jr. about an incident he regrets from the past that has stayed with him his entire life—beating Bob Jr. for not wearing a raincoat to a guitar lesson.

Originally aired May 16, 2008, on NPR’s Morning Edition.