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Remembering The Mother of the Disability Rights Movement

Judy Heumann was known as the “Mother of the Disability Rights Movement.” Over the course of decades, she worked to have the government recognize the rights of disabled people— first as a protestor, and later as part of the Clinton and Obama administrations.

In 1970, the New York City Board of Education denied her a teaching license because of her quadriplegia— claiming her wheelchair made her a fire hazard. Her subsequent lawsuit was the first ever disability civil rights case brought to federal court, and the springboard to her activism.

Another pivotal moment in her career came in 1977, during the 504 Sit-ins. People with disabilities and their allies occupied federal buildings across the United States to push for a long-delayed anti-discrimination policy. Judy organized the San Francisco contingent, which lasted 25 days, becoming the longest sit-in protest at a federal building in history. 

Legislation and programs she helped craft later in her career expanded accessibility to millions of people in the US.

Judy passed away at age 75 on March 4, 2023. To mark her passing, StoryCorps is releasing a conversation she recorded with her friend April Coughlin, about the landmark legal case that would define her career.

Top Photo: April Coughlin and Judy Huemann, in 2018. Courtesy of April Coughlin.

With your support, StoryCorps is able to record more stories that help lift up underrepresented voices, bridge political and social divides, and preserve personal histories for the future.



‘Honey, You Got A Terrific Nose;’ Two Siblings Reflect On Their Father’s Legacy

David Hedison grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, as the son of Armenian immigrants. In 2005 he recorded a conversation with his youngest daughter, Serena, at the flagship StoryCorps booth at Grand Central Terminal.  There, he spoke candidly for the first time about how he got cosmetic surgery — a nose job — as a young man in order to achieve his dream of becoming an actor.  He went on to have a prolific career as a television, film, and stage actor. Most notably, he starred in the American sci-fi television series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea from the 1960s and was cast in two James Bond movies (Live and Let Die, 1973 and License to Kill, 1989).
David Hedison in London, 2019. Courtesy of Alex Hedison.
He died in 2019 at the age of 92. Recently his daughters, Serena and Alex, came back to StoryCorps to reflect on the secret he shared, and the legacy he left behind.
Alex Hedison and Serena Hedison at their StoryCorps interview in Los Angeles on January 24, 2023. By Garden of Sound studio for StoryCorps.
Top Photo: Alex, David and Serena Hedison in Malibu, CA, circa 1975. Courtesy of Alex Hedison.
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 Feb. 10, 2023, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

With your support, StoryCorps is able to record more stories that help lift up underrepresented voices, bridge political and social divides, and preserve personal histories for the future.


‘A Package Deal’: Two Brothers Face Mortality Together

David Carles and his little brother, Mark Carles, were best friends.

David and Mark Carles at a family wedding in 2002. Courtesy of Mark Carles.

Growing up on Staten Island, the two did everything together. But in 2018, at the age of 24, Mark’s life was upended by a rare form of liver cancer called fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma.

David Carles’ Tinder profile. Courtesy of David Carles.

A year after that diagnosis, the brothers sat down at StoryCorps in New York City to talk about the ways Mark’s illness had changed their lives.

Mark died on February 24th, 2022. He was 27. David came back to StoryCorps to remember him, just a few days after his death.  

Top photo: Mark Carles and David Carles at their StoryCorps interview in New York City on November 6th, 2019. By Mia Warren for StoryCorps.

Listen to David and Mark’s original 2019 conversation:

Originally aired November 22nd, 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition. An edited version was rebroadcast on March 4, 2022 on the same program.

StoryCorps Alum Turned Bestselling Author Reflects On The Power Of Storytelling

Jason Reynolds is an award winning writer, specializing in novels and poetry for young adults and kids. He started writing poetry at the age of nine, and by 16, he had self-published his first work. He went on to become a #1 New York Times bestselling author, and was also recently appointed the 7th National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress.

But before all that, he was a StoryCorps Facilitator. 

At the age of 22, he sat down to record with another facilitator for the very first time, to ponder his dreams for the future, and pay tribute to the woman who inspired him.

Isabelle Reynolds and Jason Reynolds, at their StoryCorps recording in 2006. Photo by Justina Mejias for StoryCorps..
Top Photo: Jason Reynolds, on November 15th, 2006. Photo by Jonah Engle for StoryCorps.



The Santa Protest — How One Man’s Firing Became A Fight For AIDS Awareness

In 1989, at the height of the AIDS crisis, Mark Woodley was caring for his dying best friend, while coping with his own HIV status. Although an architect by training, he saw an ad in the Village Voice looking for Macy’s Santas. He applied and got the job. He loved the experience of bringing joy to children, and Macy’s invited him back the following holiday season. 

By 1990, he had started taking the drug AZT, which was the primary treatment for AIDS. When he went in for his physical, he was honest about his medication regimen — AZT in combination with Prozac — and he knew he made a mistake.

Mark waited for Macy’s to respond, but no news came about the job. He was called into an HR meeting and told that they wouldn’t be rehiring him back as Santa. He filed a lawsuit against the department store.

Around the same, Jon Winkleman, a young gay man, was taking his first steps into activism with the coalition group ACT UP — along with their subsidiary group Action Tours, which carried out covert direct actions. He read a blurb in the back of the New York Times about Mark’s lawsuit, and he and the group decided to do something about it.

The Action Tours protest at the Macy’s 34th St Store in NYC on Nov 29, 1991. Photo by Meryl Levin.

After the protest, Mark never returned to Macy’s as Santa, but in the following years, he donned the red suit again at different pediatric AIDS clinics and organizations. 

After losing his job as Macy’s Santa, Mark Woodley welcomed the chance to play the part for children with H.I.V. at the State University Health Science Center in Brooklyn. Dec. 16th 1994, by Michelle V. Agins, for the NY Times.

Mark eventually moved to Amsterdam, where he opened a small import business. Jon stayed in New York until 2015, when moved back home to Rhode Island. He is still an activist. They connected virtually for StoryCorps almost 30 years to the day of the protest. 

Mark Woodley in Amsterdam, and Jon Winkleman in Rhode Island, after their StoryCorps recording on November 22nd, 2021. For StoryCorps.
Top Photo: The Action Tours action at the Macy’s 34th St Store in NYC on Nov 29, 1991. Photo by Meryl Levin.

Originally aired December 10, 2021 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Siblings Remember Their Father, A Combat Pilot Who Served In Three Wars

Growing up in the 1930s, Lt. Col. Miguel Encinias wasn’t sure if his dream of becoming a military pilot was in reach. In those days, combat pilots of Hispanic heritage were almost unheard of. 

But Encinias was accepted into the Air Force cadet school, and would go and serve as a combat pilot in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He flew around 240 combat missions in all.

Miguel Encinias in Saigon, Vietnam, in 1961. (Courtesy of the Encinias family)

He died in 2016, at the age of 92.

Two of his children, Isabel and Juan Pablo Encinias, came to StoryCorps to remember him and his love for flying.

Juan Pablo Encinias and Isabel Encinias in 2016. (Courtesy of the Encinias family)
Top Photo: Miguel Encinias crouched beneath a F105 aircraft in 1967.  (Courtesy of the Encinias family)

Originally aired November 5, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

As The Curtain Goes Up —Two Performers Remember “Phantom’s” Beloved Costume Dresser

Phantom of the Opera had its Broadway premiere in 1988, at the Majestic Theatre. Not long after its opening, Jennifer Arnold would become a permanent fixture on the crew, working as a costume dresser for over thirty years. 

Jennifer Arnold, courtesy of Janet Saia.

Jen embodied the spirit of the theater world, with a quirky sense of style and an enigmatic spark. She was also known for creating intricate matchboxes with photos and glitter, giving them as gifts to members of the cast and crew. Each one, intentionally designed for the person.

Janet Saia’s collection of matchboxes gifted to her by Jennifer Arnold. Courtesy of Janet Saia.

When the COVID-19 Pandemic shut down Broadway, the theaters closed their doors. Within a matter of weeks, Jen would pass away. 

Kelly Jeanne Grant and Janet Saia are two performers for the show. They came to StoryCorps as the show reopened in 2021 to remember their friend, and the impact she had on their lives.

Janet Saia and Kelly Grant in costume backstage at the Majestic Theatre in January of 2016. Courtesy of Janet Saia. 
Top Photo: From left to right, Kelly Jeanne Grant, Jennifer Arnold, and Janet Saia in New York in 2016. Courtesy of Janet Saia.

Originally aired October 22nd, 2021 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Twenty Years Later, 9/11 Survivor Remembers His Identical Twin Brother Killed In The Attack

Born just minutes apart, Richie and Ronnie Palazzolo were twin brothers who shared everything. They both ran marathons, cheered for their favorite football team— the Minnesota Vikings— and even followed the same career path.

Ronald Palazzolo holding cousin Christina Della Pelle with his brother Richard, New Years Eve, 1994 Courtesy of the Palazzolo family.

They worked as brokers in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Ronnie on the 26th floor at Garban-Intercapital, and Richie on the 105th floor for Cantor Fitzgerald. They were both there on the day of the attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001.

Ronnie survived, but Richie did not.

Ronnie, his older brother Michael, and Richie on Easter, 1967 in Queens, NY. Courtesy of the Palazzolo family.

In 2021, Ronnie came to StoryCorps to remember that day and reflect on the pain of losing his brother and best friend.

Top Photo: Richard Palazzolo outside their family’s home in upstate New York, in 2000. Courtesy of the Palazzolo family.

Originally aired September 10, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

This recording was made in partnership with the National September 11 Memorial & Museum as part of StoryCorps’ effort to collect one recording for each life lost that day.

“Never Say Goodbye”: Remembering The Love Between Danny And Annie

Danny Perasa proposed to Annie, his future wife, on their first date, and she accepted.

The two of them came to StoryCorps in 2004 to talk about that first date—and how their love for each other grew over their nearly 30 year relationship.

Annie and Danny at their StoryCorps Interview.

After their first interview, Danny and Annie instantly became part of the StoryCorps family. Danny came back to StoryCorps again and again to interview the characters he knew, and to talk about his love for Annie. Then, in 2006, Danny was diagnosed with a fast-spreading, terminal cancer. He wanted to record one last interview with Annie, so StoryCorps went to their home in Brooklyn. Danny Perasa died a week later.

After his passing, Annie received thousands of condolence letters from StoryCorps listeners and she read one every day until she died of COVID-19 in 2021. She was 79.

Top Photo: Danny and Annie on their wedding day (Courtesy of the participants).

Listen to an update from Annie in 2013, where she explained the philosophy that she shared with Danny, “Never Say Goodbye.”

Watch “Danny & Annie,” the StoryCorps animation of the Perasas’ interviews.

Originally aired August 11, 2004, on NPR’s Morning Edition, It was rebroadcast on August 20, 2021 on the same program.

Honoring the Penniless and Forgotten: A Man’s Reflection On Hart Island

It is estimated that more than one million people are buried in New York City’s Hart Island, the city’s public cemetery, and the final resting place for unclaimed, penniless or unidentified individuals.

For the better part of its 150-year history, the island was closed off to the public. The only visitors allowed to witness the burials were the gravediggers themselves. Because the Department of Correction managed the island, the burials have long been the job of incarcerated people.

Casimiro “Cas” Torres was one of them. In the late 1980s, he was arrested for robbery, and sent to Hart Island to bury and disinter bodies.

Almost three decades later, he came to StoryCorps to keep their memory alive.

Cas Torres in his late teens, around the same time he was imprisoned and transferred to Hart Island.

This story aired July of 2021, when jurisdiction of Hart Island transferred from New York City Department of Correction to the City’s Human Resources Administration and Parks and Recreation, formally ending the practice of using inmates to carry out the burials.

Top Photo: Cas Torres at their StoryCorps interview in New York City on January 30, 2015. By John White for StoryCorps.

Originally aired July 16, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.