Pennsylvania Archives - StoryCorps

Finding A Mom And “The Power Of Love”: Reflections From A Foster Mother And Daughter

Jade Rone grew up in foster care in Philadelphia, and spent the majority of her childhood living with one foster mother. When she was 17, her foster mom died, and she found herself searching for a family once again.

In 2015, Jade was placed in the home of Stacia Parker. The early months of their relationship were rough, as they both learned to trust each other.

Photo: Jade Rone and Stacia Parker. Courtesy of Stacia Parker.

Their connection eventually deepened into a mother-daughter relationship, with Stacia becoming a devoted grandmother to Jade’s two young children, Kelani Grace, age 4, and Nova Reign, age 1.

In 2019, Jade and Stacia came to StoryCorps to remember when they first met.

Top Photo: Jade Rone and Stacia Parker at their StoryCorps interview in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. By Ava Ahmadbeigi for StoryCorps.

Originally aired May 7th, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Philadelphia Poll Worker Supports Her Community, and Inspires Daughter to Do the Same

Cherie DeBrest cast her first ballot nearly 30 years ago and has voted in every election since.

She felt “duty-bound” to vote in honor of those before her who weren’t allowed. She credits her inspiration to early suffragettes, Black women like Mary Church Terrell and Ida B. Wells, who fought for the right to vote in 1920, but never got the chance to vote themselves. She carries their legacy, along with so many others in the fight for civil rights, each time she goes into the voting booth.

But last year, she decided to take it a step further and started working at the polls in her North Philadelphia neighborhood.

Using StoryCorps Connect, she spoke with her 18-year-old daughter, Naima.

Top Photo: Cherie and Naima DeBrest following their StoryCorps interview in Philadelphia, PA on October 21, 2020. Courtesy of Naima DeBrest.

Originally aired October 30, 2020, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

“I Was Going To Have Family Again:” How One Woman’s Path to Being Herself Led Her Home

Elizabeth Coffey-Williams was in her early 20s when she told her family that she was transgender. But back then, in the early 1970s, there were very few options for people who wanted to medically transition. 

She is now 71 years old. She sat down for a StoryCorps interview with her niece, Jennifer Coffey, to reflect on that journey. 

Elizabeth now lives in a LGBTQ-friendly housing complex for seniors in downtown Philadelphia. Hear more from Elizabeth and her neighbors on the StoryCorps podcast.

Top Photo: Elizabeth Coffey-Williams and Jennifer Coffey at their StoryCorps interview in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 8, 2019. By Jud Esty-Kendall for StoryCorps.

Originally aired August 16, 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

“There Was No Hanky Panky”: A Couple Reflects On The Friendship That Led To 70 Years Of Marriage

Julia and Joel Helfman met when they were just kids — at 12 and 13 years old. Their friendship blossomed into a decades-long love story. And together they had five kids of their own, as well as 11 grandchildren and eight great-grandkids.

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A few months before their 70th wedding anniversary, Joel and Julia sat down at StoryCorps to remember how it all began.

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Top photo: Julia and Joel Helfman on their wedding day in November 1949. Courtesy of the Helfman family. 
Middle photo: Joel and Julia Helfman (center) with their five kids, c. 1972. Courtesy of the Helfman family. 
Bottom photo: Julia and Joel Helfman at their StoryCorps interview in Philadelphia, PA in 2019. By Eleanor Vassili for StoryCorps.

Originally aired July 26, 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

A Beautiful Gray In The Gayborhood

Many people come to StoryCorps with a loved one to talk about the things that matter most in their lives. But for many LGBTQ seniors, finding someone to even have that conversation with can be tough. 

So in this episode of the StoryCorps podcast, we visit the John C. Anderson Apartmentsan affordable housing complex for seniors in downtown Philadelphia’s “gayborhood.” We’ll get to know eight residents who all led very different lives but ultimately ended up here to live out their golden years together.

We’ll start by hearing from one of the first people to move in, Elizabeth Coffey Williams. She sat down with her niece Jenn Coffey, as well as her gardening buddy, best friend, and neighbor Frank Potopa.

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In the building’s lobby, there’s a large black and white photograph framed on the wall.  It shows people marching outside of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, holding signs with slogans demanding equal rights.

This protest—which went on to become a yearly event called the Annual Reminder—happened in 1965. It was one of the first organized demonstrations for gay rights in the country.

One of the protesters is named John James and he’s now 78 years old. He sat down for StoryCorps to remember being part of that historical protest.

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Another fixture in the building’s lobby is Roosevelt “Rosy” Adams, who often holds court in the seating area there. In his StoryCorps interview, he reflects on growing up in Philadelphia and falling in love with his neighbor.

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But even with an established community, it can still be hard to make new friends. Two of John C Anderson’s newest residents, Katherine Allen and PC Wilson, took their StoryCorps interview as an opportunity to get to know each other better.

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Finally, we’ll hear from Mary Groce and Susan Atlas, who live across the hall from Katherine Allen. They met and fell in love years ago, and moved into the John C Anderson building when they had nowhere else to go.

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Top photo: Artwork by Michael Caines.
Middle Photo: Elizabeth Coffey Williams with her niece, Jennifer Coffey, at their StoryCorps interview. Also Elizabeth with her friend and gardening buddy Frank Potopa at the John C Anderson apartments in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. By Jud Esty-Kendall.
Middle Photo: John James at the John C Anderson apartments in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In the historical photo of the Annual Reminder protest, he’s on the left side wearing a black suit. By Jud Esty-Kendall.
Middle Photo: Roosevelt “Rosy” Adams at StoryCorps in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 2019. By Jud Esty-Kendall.
Middle Photo: PC Wilson and Katherine Allen, who recorded in Katherine’s apartment in 2019. By Jud Esty-Kendall.
Bottom Photo: Mary Groce and Susan Atlas at their StoryCorps interview in 2019. By Jud Esty-Kendall.

Released on July 23, 2019.

Like the music in this episode? Support the artists:
“Overture“ by Patrick Wolf
“Untitled #4” by Yusuke Tsutsumi
Step In Step Out” by Blue Dot Sessions
“Grey Grey Joe” by Blue Dot Sessions
“City Limits” by Blue Dot Sessions
“Cast In Wicker” by Blue Dot Sessions
“Lahaina” by Blue Dot Sessions

Claudia Dewane and Bill Dewane

When Bill Dewane was a college freshman, he suffered a severe spinal cord injury. He was hospitalized for more than six months and doctors thought he’d never walk again. He did regain his ability to walk, but was left partially paralyzed and with chronic pain.

Claudia Maraviglia graduated from Rutgers University in 1973 and took a job at a New Jersey bank before heading to graduate school that fall. She was working at the bank when she met Bill, and a confused transaction led to their first date.

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Bill and Claudia married on July 12, 1975 — this year marks their 42nd wedding anniversary.

Bill is a retired budget analyst for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Claudia teaches social work at Temple University. They have two daughters, Maggie and Mollie Dewane.

At StoryCorps, Bill and Claudia discuss the beginnings of their relationship and reflect on their years together.

Originally broadcast February 10, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Top photo: Bill and Claudia on their wedding day. Courtesy of the Dewane Family.

Terri Roberts and Delores Hayford

It has been a decade since Charles Roberts IV took 10 young Amish girls hostage inside the West Nickel Mines School one-room schoolhouse in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, before killing five, wounding the others, and committing suicide.

robertsnpr2Immediately following the tragedy, the Amish community reacted in a way that many found surprising—with forgiveness.

Forgiveness is an important tenet of the Amish faith, which closely follows Jesus’ teachings to forgive one another and place the needs of others before your own. Vengeance and retribution are left to God. Their quickness to forgive the killer led a number Amish to attend the funeral of Charles Roberts, and closeness developed between his family and the community—particular his mother, Terri Roberts.

Terri sat down for StoryCorps with her friend Delores Hayford (pictured together above) to remember the events of October 2, 2006, how the Amish community treated her following the killings, and to discuss her current relationship with one of the severely wounded girls.

Originally aired September 30, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Max Voelz and Mary Dague

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Army Sgt. 1st Class Max Voelz and his wife, Staff Sgt. Kim Voelz, worked in Explosive Ordnance Disposal—the Army’s elite bomb squad. Both Max and Kim were sent to Iraq in 2003. One night, Max called in the location of an explosive and Kim was sent to disarm it. She did not survive the mission. In 2011, Max came to StoryCorps to remember her.

At one of Max’s lowest points, he turned to another bomb tech, Sgt. Mary Dague, who lost both of her arms during an IED disposal in Iraq (pictured above in one of her favorite t-shirts). Max and Mary (pictured together at top of page) came to StoryCorps to talk about coping with loss.

Retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Max Voelz with his fiancee, Lesley Holot, who heard Max's original StoryCorps broadcast and reached out to him via Facebook. They started dating in September 2012 and got engaged in July.

Web Extra: After Max’s story was broadcast, NPR listener Leslie Holot (pictured at right) reached out to him on Facebook. The two fell in love and got engaged. They came to StoryCorps in 2014 to talk about their relationship.

Originally aired November 7, 2014, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Jim Stockdale and Jasey Schnaars

Many Americans remember Vice Admiral James Stockdale as H. Ross Perot’s running mate during the 1992 presidential campaign. Standing on stage between Dan Quayle and Al Gore during the vice-presidential debate, Admiral Stockdale opened by rhetorically asking: “Who am I? Why am I here?”

Stockdale4Those questions immediately became a sound bite and a punchline for late night comedians, and for millions of Americans, they defined a man they knew little about.

Adm. Stockdale’s legacy goes beyond a few sentences spoken in a debate. Over the course of his Naval career, he earned 26 combat awards including two Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Distinguished Service Medals, two Purple Hearts, four Silver Stars, and in 1976 President Gerald Ford presented him with our nation’s highest military honor: the Medal of Honor.

In 1947, Adm. Stockdale graduated from the United States Naval Academy, and in 1965, then-Captain Stockdale’s plane was shot down over North Vietnam. He was then captured and brought to the Hoa Lo Prison, infamously referred to as the “Hanoi Hilton.”

As the highest-ranking Naval officer held prisoner of war, he became a leader among the other POWs establishing a code of conduct to help keep them from being used by the North Vietnamese for propaganda purposes. Adm. Stockdale, who was forced to wear leg irons for two years while held captive, at one point slashed his own face with a razor to keep from being put on camera, and according to his Medal of Honor citation, he once used glass from a broken window to slit his own wrist in order to “convince his captors of his willingness to give up his life rather than capitulate.”

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During his seven and a half years as a POW, Adm. Stockdale was able to send letters to his wife, Sybil, in California. Quickly, she figured out his correspondences contained coded messages and she coordinated with the CIA to continue their communications while her husband was held captive.

Sybil herself was a force to be reckoned with. She was a vocal advocate for the families of POWs and soldiers missing in action at a time when the United States government followed a “keep quiet” policy, asking relatives of POWs not to call attention to their family members (this policy was primarily for public relations purposes). And as a response, she helped found the National League of Families of American Prisoners Missing in Southeast Asia, a nonprofit organization that is still active today as The National League of POW/MIA Families.

Below: Listen to an excerpt from a February 1973 conversation between James and Sybil, speaking to each other on the phone for the first time in seven and a half years. Recorded by their son Stanford, James was at Clark Air Base in the Philippines at the time and would days later be reunited with his family.

In 1979, Sybil was awarded the U.S. Navy Department’s Distinguished Public Service Award, presented to civilians for specific courageous or heroic acts.

Stockdale2The citation that accompanied the honor noted, “Her actions and indomitable spirit in the face of many adversities contributed immeasurably to the successful safe return of American prisoners, gave hope, solace, and support to their families in a time of need and reflected the finest traditions of the Naval service and of the United States of America.”

In July 2005, Adm. Stockdale died at the age of 81, and in October 2015, Sybil died at the age of 90. They are buried alongside each other at the United States Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, Maryland.

Their son, Jim, a teenager at the time of his father’s capture, came to StoryCorps with his friend, Jasey Schnaars (pictured at left). Jim talked about his mother’s strength as they waited for his father’s return home.

Originally aired May 27, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Top: Jim Stockdale and his brothers, Taylor (right) and Stanford (left), greet their father, Navy Captian James Stockdale, at Miramar Naval Air Station on February 15, 1973, as he returns home after spending seven and a half years as a POW. (Photo courtesy of Jim Stockdale.)
Middle: Vice Admiral James Stockdale with his wife, Sybil. (Photo courtesy of Jim Stockdale.)

The Unedited StoryCorps Interview: Phil Avillo and Susan Scherr

“I wasn’t injured, I was wounded. Big difference. Your mother used to say, ‘Before his accident’ meaning, like, getting shot, I would say, “Linda, it wasn’t an accident, somebody was trying to kill me.”

Phil-Avillo-July-1965-Qui-Nhon,-Vietnam-512x348While you are used to hearing the audio pieces we share on NPR’s Morning Edition and our podcast, StoryCorps interviews are really much longer conversations—about 40 minutes—that take place between two people in a booth or other private space with a trained StoryCorps facilitator present.

Currently our archives house over 65,000 of these conversations, and because they are fascinating complete looks into people’s lives, and offer insight into the mechanics of a StoryCorps interview, we have started to bring these to you unedited.

This discussion, between Phil Avillo, 73, and his daughter, Susan Scherr, 36, was recorded in York, Pennsylvania, in November 2015, and covers two StoryCorps programs: the Military Voices Initiative (MVI) and Legacy. MVI provides a platform for veterans, service members, and military families to share their stories in order to honor their voices and amplify their experiences, while Legacy provides people of all ages with serious illness and their families the opportunity to record, preserve, and share their stories through partnerships with organizations across the country.

You may notice that Phil and Susan are pictured below not in a StoryCorps booth or medical facility, but in his home. The unique Legacy “train the trainer” model allows partner organizations like Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center (who have recorded over 30 interviews with StoryCorps), to train their own facilitators who then record interviews with participants in a variety of locations.

lsk001470_g1Phil, a former Marine who fought in the Vietnam War (pictured above in 1965), was recently diagnosed with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Phil talks with Susan about how his recent diagnosis has affected his life, and sheds light on his approach to living with a disease with no known cause, cure, or long-term treatment. “It’s not like I’m 25, you know. I think this disease is—as insidious as it is—is cruelest, and think all diseases are cruelest, when they hit younger people. If I were forty and you kids were young and this was happening to me, I would be beside myself.”

He also reflects on his service during the Vietnam War where he lost his left leg in combat on December 7, 1965—making him, as he puts it, a Pearl Harbor Day survivor of sorts—and telling Susan that the amputation infused him with a confidence he never before had leading his life to take on a feeling of urgency.

Phil also discusses the loss of his mother at a young age, meeting and marrying his wife, and the full life he now enjoys despite the challenges he confronts daily.

Click here to listen to the interview.

Click here to download a PDF transcript of this interview.

Click here for more information about Legacy.

Click here for more information about the Military Voices Initiative.

Disclaimer: All material within the StoryCorps collection is copyrighted by StoryCorps. StoryCorps encourages use of material on this site by educators and students without prior permission, provided appropriate credit is given. This interview has not been fact-checked, and may contain sensitive personal information about living persons.