Philadelphia 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

Shengqiao Chen and Zehao Zhou

In 1993, a freighter called the Golden Venture ran aground just outside New York City.

Onboard were nearly 300 people who were being smuggled into the U.S. from China. Some paid upwards of $30,000 for passage on the ship, fleeing from political persecution.

After the crash, 10 people drowned trying to reach land. Many who made it were detained in U.S. prisons for years, waiting for political asylum.

Shengqiao Chen (left) was one of those survivors. He sat down for StoryCorps, with his friend Zehao Zhou (right). They met while Sheng was in prison; Zehao was his translator.

Originally aired June 7, 2013, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Father Michael Duffy

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Father Michael Duffy received two unsettling phone calls following the 9/11 attacks. The first informed him that his close friend and mentor, Father Mychal Judge, had been killed at the World Trade Center. During the second call, he learned Father Mychal had requested that Duffy give the homily at his funeral.

The two Franciscan priests met in the 1970s, when they were assigned to the same parish in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Father Michael eventually settled in Philadelphia to work with poor communities there, while Father Mychal found his way back to his native New York where he ministered to everyone from the homeless to the mayor.

On September 11, Father Mychal was serving as chaplain to the New York City Fire Department. That morning he found himself where he always seemed to end up—right in the thick of things. He arrived at the World Trade Center shortly after the first plane hit.

Originally aired September 9, 2011, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Roy Wilbur, Alexis Buss and Larry Buss

Alexis Buss (center) talks with her father, Larry (right), and his partner Roy Wilbur (left) about their relationship with Alexis’ newborn daughter, and how it has helped Roy grieve for his own father.

Originally aired on June 26, 2009, on NPR’s Morning Edition.