Ohio – StoryCorps
Triple your impact this Giving Tuesday! Donate by midnight, 11/30! Donate

A Sister Shares A Cherished Memory That Carried Her Through Childhood

Sisters Amy McNally and Emily Fortner grew up in the 1980s in rural Ohio.

They were raised by a single mom in an old farmhouse, where they didn’t cross paths with many neighbors. Whenever someone did come knocking on their door, it would be a hunter asking if they could track their deer onto their property. 

In July of 2022, Amy came to StoryCorps to share one special childhood memory, and why it stood out to her.

Amy McNally and Emily Fortner (center and right) with their mother, Nan Barnebey (left), in the early 1990s in Ft Lauderdale, FL.
Top Photo: Emily Fortner and Amy McNally. Photos courtesy of the participants.

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 Sept. 2, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

“Kids Bring Happiness”: A Couple Finds Purpose Opening Their Home To Children Affected By The Opioid Crisis

The opioid crisis reached a grim milestone during the heaviest months of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 100,000 people died from overdoses, a record number that has touched families and communities across the country.

Historically, one of the hardest hit areas has been Blue Creek, Ohio, where Jesus and Suzanne Valle lived and raised their family for two decades. It eventually hit close to home, when Suzanne’s brother and sister-in-law started struggling with drug addiction. 

When it became clear to the Valles that their four nieces and nephews would go into the foster care system, they stepped in and filed for custody. They eventually adopted the kids, as well as two more children from the larger community.

Jesus and Suzanne with their adopted children in Art Van Atta Park, OH, July of 2021. (Courtesy of the Valle family)

In 2017, they came to StoryCorps to reflect on their decision to take in more kids, and how they’ve found purpose and happiness in their bustling household.

 

Top Photo: Jesus and Suzanne Valle at their StoryCorps interview in Blue Creek, OH, on August 13, 2017. By Jacqueline Van Meter for StoryCorps.

Originally aired December 17, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

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. 

“You Are Your Brother’s Keeper”: A Marine Opens Up To His Son About 9/11

In August 2000, former Marine Sgt. Jason Thomas was discharged from active duty. One year later, on September 11, 2001, he was compelled to step forward as two planes crashed into the World Trade Center, just miles from where he lived. 

Jason grabbed his Marine uniform and sped to Ground Zero, where he spent almost three weeks working as a first responder looking for survivors buried under the debris. 

Jason Thomas at Ground Zero on 9/11. This is one of the images developed by the firefighter who found Jason’s camera at Ground Zero. Courtesy of Jason Thomas.

For the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Jason — now a Master Sgt. with the Air Force Reserve — came to StoryCorps with his youngest son, Jason Christian Thomas, to talk about the lasting impact that experience had on him. 

This was the first time they spoke about the details of that day.

Jason Thomas and Jason Christian Thomas in Florida, July of 2020. Courtesy of Jason Thomas.
Top Photo: Jason Thomas at Ground Zero after 9/11. Courtesy of Jason Thomas.

Originally aired Sept. 11, 2021, on NPR’s Weekend 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.

Karen Goodwin and Marlene Shay

This is a story of two women brought together by an unintended consequence of the opioid epidemic. As of late 2017, as the number of deaths skyrocketed, about one out of every 10 organ donors had died of an overdose.

When 21-year-old Adam Shay overdosed on heroin in 2014, his pancreas and kidney were donated to a stranger, Karen Goodwin, who was a recovering addict herself. At the time of her transplant, she had been sober for 13 years.

Karen reached out to Adam’s mother, Marlene Shay, a year after his death. They sat down for this conversation at StoryCorps in Beachwood, Ohio.

ShayNPRExtra1-636x954

Originally aired November 17, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Bottom image: Karen Goodwin and Marlene Shay at StoryCorps in Beachwood, OH.

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.

RyanExtra1

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.

Aiko Ebihara and Roy Ebihara

February 19, 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, which authorized the internment of Japanese Americans on the West Coast.

In the weeks leading up to the executive order — shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor —  anti-Japanese sentiment reached a fever pitch. So-called “enemy aliens” were forced to register with local authorities and turn over radios, flashlights, and anything else that could be used as a signaling device.

ebihara2

Roy Ebihara was 8 years old at the time living in Clovis, New Mexico with his family. He watched as his town grew increasingly hostile towards its small Japanese community. His father had to stop working as a machinist at the Santa Fe Railroad Company and the children were pulled out of school under threats of violence.

Several weeks before the executive order was issued, Roy’s family became among the first to be forcibly removed from their home and taken to a detention center.

Roy’s wife, Aiko, was also interned along with her family.

At StoryCorps, Roy and Aiko reflect on the days leading up to their internments.

Originally aired February 17, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Top photo: Roy Ebihara (far left) with his siblings Mary, Kathy, and Bill on Easter 1941 in Clovis, New Mexico. They were taken to an internment camp the following January.

Dennis Hale and Barbara Hale

In December 1966, a ship called the SS Daniel J. Morrell was hauling steel across Lake Huron when it became caught in a severe storm. The ship broke apart and sank, and only a few of the 28 members of the crew onboard made it to a life raft. Dennis Hale was the only one of them who survived.

At StoryCorps, Dennis tells his wife, Barbara, about the 38-hour ordeal he went through, and the difficulty and pain of being the sole survivor of this tragedy.

Originally aired December 6, 2013, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Samuel Taylor and Connie Casey

When he was 15 years old, Samuel Taylor came out to his mother, Connie Casey.

In an attempt to “fix” her son, Connie sent Samuel to a series of ex-gay conversion therapy ministries affiliated with Exodus International. Samuel was in therapy for three years.

Samuel, 22, came to StoryCorps with Connie to talk about his experience—and to hear about the evolution of her beliefs.

Originally aired June 28, 2013, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

This story was originally broadcast a few days after Exodus International folded and apologized for promoting reparative therapies. At the time of this broadcast, subjecting minors to conversion therapy remains legal in 45 states.