Minneapolis Archives - StoryCorps

A Couple Determined to Marry: How Jack Baker and Michael McConnell Became Husbands in 1971

In 1966, Michael McConnell and Jack Baker were introduced to one another by a friend at a Halloween barn party in Norman, Oklahoma. They quickly fell in love and decided to get married, despite the fact that it was illegal at the time.  

In the Spring of 1970, they walked into a government center in downtown Minneapolis, dressed in suits and ties, and applied for a marriage license. A few days later, they received a letter saying that their license had been denied. But they didn’t give up. 

Close-up of Jack Baker and Michael McConnell holding hands, featuring their wedding rings, in Minneapolis, Minn., March 2017. By Jhaleh Akhavan for StoryCorps.

They filed an appeal that went up to the United States Supreme Court. And even though their appeal was dismissed, in 1971 they found a way to become husbands. Jack and Michael came to StoryCorps to talk about their relationship, and how they made the law work in their favor. 

Michael McConnell (left) and Jack Baker (right) in their backyard in Minneapolis, Minn., July 2015.

 

Top Photo: Michael McConnell (left) and Jack Baker (right) with their wedding cake, featuring a two-groom topper, in Minneapolis, Minn. on September 3, 1971. By Paul Hagen. 

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired October 14, 2022 on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

A Son Took Up His Distant Father’s Instrument to Honor His Military Service

Army Sergeant First Class Jodi Walz served in the United States Army band for 30 years — 12 of them in active duty and 17 years in the reserves. Music defined his life, in and out of military service.

Gena Gear and her son, Ryan Walz, have vivid memories of Jodi on stage playing trumpet, and how much he enjoyed performing as a singer. Gena remembers him during the initial years of their romantic relationship as a quick-witted, charming man, and also as one who seemingly lost his way after leaving active duty. 

Jodi Walz with Ryan (right) and his younger brother Tyler in Minnesota around 2005. Courtesy of Gena Gear.

But despite his struggles, his family honors his pride for and commitment to the military.

After Jodi died from COVID in November 2020, Ryan came to StoryCorps with Gena to reflect on his father’s service and legacy, and talk about his decision to play taps at his funeral.

Jodi Walz in the reserves in Minnesota, around 2012. Courtesy of Gena Gear.

 

Top Photo: Gena Gear and Ryan Walz at their StoryCorps interview in Minneapolis, MN, on May 5, 2022.

Originally aired May 28, 2022, on NPR’s Weekend Edition. 

50 Years Later: Giving Thanks to the Teacher Who Changed His Life

People often come to StoryCorps with those who have made an impact on their lives. In this piece, we hear from a cabaret performer and his elementary school music teacher.

Russ King grew up outside of Minneapolis in the 1970s. He sat down with his music teacher,  Paige Macklin, 50 years later, to tell her about a choice she made, and how it changed his life.

Top photo: Paige Macklin and Russell King at their StoryCorps interview in St. Paul, MN on November 14, 2019. By John Miller for StoryCorps.
Middle photo: Russell King at age 12. Courtesy of Russell King.
Bottom photo: Paige Macklin at in the early 1970s. Courtesy of Paige Macklin.

Originally aired January 10, 2020, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

‘Sometimes Humanity Is What We Need’: Two Women Reflect On Their Unlikely Friendship

One night, in October 2015, Asma Jama went out for dinner with her family at an Applebee’s restaurant in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. Asma, who is Somali American and Muslim, was wearing a hijab, as she always does.

While Asma was talking with her cousin in Swahili, a woman named Jodie Bruchard-Risch, who was seated nearby, told her to speak English or go back to her country. When Asma responded to say that she was a U.S. citizen, the woman smashed a beer mug across Asma’s face. Asma was then rushed to the hospital and required 17 stitches in her face, hands and chest.

Jodie Bruchard-Risch pleaded guilty to felony assault charges and served time in jail for the crime. Jodie’s sister, Dawn Sahr, spoke out publicly against the attack and reached out to Asma.

In 2016, Asma and Dawn met for the first time at their StoryCorps interview. Since then, they’ve remained friends and recently came back for a second recording to tell us how they’re doing now.

They were also featured on the StoryCorps podcast, where you can hear more. 

Top photo: Dawn Sahr with Asma Jama in 2016, when they met for the first time at their StoryCorps interview in Minneapolis, MN. By Roselyn Almonte for StoryCorps.

Originally aired December 27, 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

The Dark Before Dawn

People often come to StoryCorps to interview someone they already know and love. But in this episode of the podcast, we’ll hear from two women who began the recording process as strangers and left as friends.

In October 2015, Asma was out for dinner at an Applebee’s in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. Asma, who is Somali American and Muslim, was wearing a hijab and speaking Swahili with her family when a woman seated at a nearby table started harassing her for not speaking English. The verbal assault quickly turned to violence when the woman struck Asma across the face with a beer mug.

After, Asma received tons of support from friends and family but she also received support from someone she wasn’t expecting: Dawn Sahr, the sister of her attacker.

Asma and Dawn met in person for the first time when they sat down together for StoryCorps. They then recorded another interview years later to talk about the wounds that linger, and the friendship they’ve formed since.

Top photo: Artwork by Lindsay Mound.
Bottom photo: Dawn Sahr and Asma Jama in Minneapolis, Minnesota at their StoryCorps recording in December of 2016. By Roselyn Almonte.

Released on November 19, 2019.

Like the music in this episode? Support the artists:
“Heat and Memory” by Jarrett Floyd
“Cast in Wicker” by Blue Dot Sessions from the album Aeronaut
“Grey Grey Joe” by Blue Dot Sessions from the album TinyTiny Trio
“Surly Bonds” by Blue Dot Sessions from the album Aeronaut

This podcast is brought to you by supporters of StoryCorps, an independently funded nonprofit organization, and is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

By the Power Vested in Me

On November 18, 2003, in the case of Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the Massachusetts Supreme Court declared that “…barring an individual from the protections, benefits, and obligations of civil marriage solely because that person would marry a person of the same sex violates the Massachusetts Constitution.” This allowed same-sex couples to be legally married in the state of Massachusetts, the first state in the United States to do so.

In this episode of the StoryCorps podcast, we’ll hear from David Wilson, one of the plaintiffs in that landmark case, who was also one of the first to be married once the law went into effect on May 17th, 2004. He came to StoryCorps several years later to reflect on his difficult path to get to that day and what being part of that historic case meant to him.

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Next, we catch up with David and his husband, Robert Compton, as they get ready to celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary. We’ll also hear from a gay couple married 50 years before David and Rob.

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Top photo: Artwork by Michael Caines.
Second photo: David Wilson and his husband, Robert Compton, in 2019 at their StoryCorps interview in Palm Springs, California. Photo by Jud Esty-Kendall.
Third photo: Michael McConnell and his husband, Jack Baker, in 2017 at their StoryCorps interview in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo by Jhaleh Akhavan.

Released on May 14, 2019.

Like the music in this episode? Support the artists:

“Overture” by Patrick Wolf from the album Sundark and Riverlight
“Periodicals” and “City Limits” by Blue Dot Sessions from the album Albany, NY
“Vittoro” by Blue Dot Sessions from the album Aeronaut
“Elegiac” by Bryan Copeland

Dawn Sahr and Asma Jama

One night, in October 2015, Asma Jama went out for dinner with her family at an Applebee’s restaurant in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. Asma, who is Somali American and Muslim, was wearing a hijab, as she always does.

While Asma was talking with her cousin in Swahili, a woman named Jodie Bruchard-Risch, who was seated nearby, told her to speak English or go back to her country. When Asma responded to say that she was a U.S. citizen, the woman smashed a beer mug across Asma’s face. She was rushed to the hospital and required 17 stitches in her face, hands and chest.

Bruchard-Risch pleaded guilty to felony assault charges and served time in jail for the crime. After the trial, her sister, Dawn Sahr, contacted Asma online and they struck up a correspondence.

At StoryCorps, Dawn and Asma met in person for the first time.

Originally aired July 21, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Ed Roy and Mary Johnson-Roy

When Mary Johnson’s teenage son was killed, she never thought she’d end up living next door to his murderer. We heard about that journey in an interview from 2011 between Mary and Oshea Israel, the man who murdered her son.

Mary went on to found From Death To Life, a support group for mothers who have lost their children to violence, and to speak publicly about her loss in local churches. That’s where she met another man with whom she would develop a deep bond: her husband, Ed Roy.

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When they met, Ed was still suffering from the loss of his only son, Mandel Roy, who had also been murdered. At StoryCorps, Mary and Ed talked about sharing in each other’s pain and going on with life after a tragedy.

Mary and Ed were married on January 3, 2015, with Oshea Israel serving as one of their groomsmen.

Originally broadcast January 27, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Bottom photo: Mary and Ed’s first dance at their wedding.
Photos courtesy of Brian Mogren.

John Marboe and Charlie Marboe

John Marboe is known to many as Reverend Doctor Garbage Man. He’s a Lutheran pastor, a professor, and a garbage hauler.

Growing up in Alexandria, Minnesota, he admired his local garbage man. In fact, he was friends with that man’s son and regularly played on the edge of the city landfill, marveling at the treasures people would discard.

garbageman1After finishing his graduate degree in 2011, times were lean for John’s family. So he took a job hauling trash and before long, he discovered some surprising connections between his work on his garbage route and his work as a pastor.

At StoryCorps, John spoke with his 13-year-old daughter, Charlie.

You can learn more about John on his blog, Rev. Dr. Garbage Man.

Originally broadcast January 20, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Photo: John Marboe on his garbage route. Courtesy of John Marboe.
This StoryCorps interview was recorded as part of The American Pilgrimage Project, a partnership based out of Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs that is devoted to gathering stories of religious faith. Author and Berkley Center senior research fellow Paul Elie is the project director and Adelina Lancianese is the project assistant.

Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel

In 1993, Oshea Israel was a teenager in Minneapolis, Minnesota. One night at a party Oshea got into a fight, which ended when he shot and killed a teenager named Laramiun Byrd. Laranium was the only child of Mary Johnson.

A dozen years later, Mary went to the penitentiary to visit the man who murdered her son.

After serving 15 years, Oshea was released from prison. Soon after, Mary brought him to StoryCorps to talk about their friendship.

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Mary Johnson founded From Death to Life, an organization that supports mothers who have lost children to homicide, and encourages forgiveness between families of murderers and victims.

Originally aired May 20, 2011, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Photos courtesy of Brian Mogren.