“It’s important to look after people.” A Big Brother Reflects on What His Younger Brother Taught Him.
The Rigano family lived just north of New York City in New Rochelle. There were five siblings: Denise, Phil, Lola, Adele, and Robbie, who grew up in a loving home in the 1960s. But Robbie held a special place in their hearts.
Left to Right: Phil Rigano school portrait at age 6; Adele, Rob, and Phil Rigano in the 1960s; Lola, Rob, and Denise Rigano on a family vacation to Lake George, NY in 1971. Photos courtesy of Lola Rigano.
Robbie is developmentally disabled, and from a young age was known for getting into sticky situations. He was especially drawn to cars, which led to a number of what his brother Phil described as “shenanigans.”
Phil and Rob Rigano during a visit to California in 2014. Photo courtesy of Phil Rigano.
In 2006 Phil brought Robbie to record a conversation together when theStoryCorps Mobile Tour stopped nearby. Knowing Robbie’s love of cars, Phil knew he’d get a kick out of recording in the iconic Airstream trailer. He came back 17 years later to reflect on that first recording.
Rob Rigano at his job at the Department of Public Works for the City of Larchmont in 1987. Photo courtesy of Lola Rigano.
Top Photo: Rob and Phil Rigano at their StoryCorps interview in San Diego, California on February 11, 2006. By Piya Kochhar for StoryCorps.
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 December 8, 2023, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
“Our Father Taught Us To Love Ourself”: Remembering The Man Who Brought Juneteenth To San Diego
Long before Juneteenth was recognized as a federal holiday in the U.S., Sidney Cooper had been celebrating the hallowed day for decades.
Sidney grew up in a predominantly Black town just outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Juneteenth celebrations were a common part of his upbringing.
In the early 1950s, Sidney settled down in Southern California, and he became an early Black business owner in a predominantly white area.
Sidney Cooper (center) with his daughter, Lana (left), and his wife, Thelma (right), in front of the Cooper family barbershop and produce stand on Imperial Avenue. Courtesy of Lana Cooper-Jones.
Sidney taught his children many lessons on family and community, but he also taught them the importance of celebrating Juneteenth — even when no one else in his community was acknowledging the holiday.
Marla Cooper celebrating at the family’s annual Juneteenth celebration in San Diego. Courtesy of Lana Cooper-Jones.
A banner honoring the memory of Sidney Cooper at the family’s annual Juneteenth celebration.
Courtesy of Lana Cooper-Jones.
His daughters, Marla and Lana, came to StoryCorps to remember their dad and the legacy he left in his community.
Top Photo: Lana Cooper-Jones and Marla Cooper at their StoryCorps interview in San Diego, CA on May 11, 2022 for StoryCorps.
Originally aired Friday, June 17, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Room In My Heart: How One Woman Found Forgiveness After Her Brother’s Murder
On January 21st, 1995, 20-year-old Tariq Khamisa, a student at San Diego State University, was out delivering a pizza, when a gang tried to rob him. Things escalated, and at the urging of an older gang member, 14-year-old Tony Hicks shot and killed Tariq.
Tariq Khamisa as a high school senior. Courtesy of the Tariq Khamisa Foundation.
Tony became the youngest person in California to be charged as an adult, and spent the majority of his sentence at maximum-security prisons.
As the Khamisa family was grieving, Tariq’s father, Azim, leaned on his spiritual practice as a Sufi Muslim.
In 2000, five years after Tariq’s death, Azim went to Folsom State Prison to meet Tony for the first time (you can hear them in conversation here). 15 years later, Tariq’s older sister, Tasreen, did the same. The friendships forged between the Khamisa family and Tony directly contributed to Tony’s release from prison in 2019.
To hear more from the Khamisa family and Tony, check out this episode of the StoryCorps podcast.
Top Photo: Tasreen Khamisa and Tony Hicks. Courtesy of the Tariq Khamisa Foundation.
This interview is part of the Anwar Collection of Muslim Voices through StoryCorps’ American Pathways initiative. This initiative is made possible by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and an Anonymous Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Stuart Family Foundation. It will be archived at the Library of Congress.
Originally aired March 5th, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
Since as far back as the Revolutionary War, LGBTQ service members have been discriminated against in various ways by the United States military. On this episode of the StoryCorps podcast, we bring you stories from veterans who were kicked out of the service, as well as some who stayed in the closet to keep their jobs.
First, we’ll hear from Sue McConnell (above left) and Kristyn Weed, who both served during the Vietnam-era and came out as trans after leaving the military.
Next, we’ll remember Technical Sergeant Leonard Matlovich, who received national attention for outing himself as gay in 1975 while serving in the Air Force.
Lastly, Air Force veteran Jeri Dilno and Navy veteran Joseph Patton take us back to the 1950s and early 60s, when they were given undesirable discharges due to the assumption that they were “homosexual.”
Top photo: Artwork by Michael Caines.
Second photo: Sue McConnell (left) and Kristyn Weed at their 2018 StoryCorps interview in Tucson, Arizona. By Mia Warren.
Third photo: Leonard Matlovich, who appeared on the cover of Time in 1975 to challenge the military ban on gay service members.
Fourth photo: Jeri Dilno with her friend Andrea Villa in 2013 at their StoryCorps interview in San Diego, California. By Cambra Moniz-Edwards.
Fifth photo: Joseph Patton, who recorded in Santa Monica, California with StoryCorps in 2019. By Jud Esty-Kendall.
Bottom photo: Joseph Patton in 1956 when he was a member of the US Navy. Courtesy of Joseph Patton.
Released on May 21, 2019.
Like the music in this episode? Support the artists:
“Overture” by Patrick Wolf from the album Sundark and Riverlight
“Step In, Step Out” by Blue Dot Sessions from the album Crab Shack
“Watermarks” by Blue Dot Sessions from the album Crab Shack
“Untitled #9” by Yusuke Tsutsumi from the album Birds Flying in the Dark
“Cast in Wicker” by Blue Dot Sessions from the album Aeronaut
“Paloma” by Fabian Almazan and Linda Oh
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.
Thomas Weller has spent the last 50 years helping strangers who break down on the highway.
At StoryCorps, he remembered the night, as a teenager in Illinois, that he discovered his calling.
Originally aired September 13, 2013, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Paul Wayman and Nathanael Roberti
Marine Cpl. Paul Wayman (left) and former Navy SEAL Nathanael Roberti (right) met in 2012 after finding themselves in front of a special court for veterans that takes into account the unique struggles service members face.
After their arrests—Paul was pulled over drunk driving with a gun in his possession and Nathanael pulled a knife on four people while in a bar fight—the judge gave each of them a choice: go to prison, or enroll in a program that helps veterans readjust to civilian life. They chose to go through the program, Veterans Village of San Diego.
At StoryCorps, Paul and Roberti discuss their struggles to adjust to civilian life and the support they have provided each other.
Originally aired August 10, 2013, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.
Boyd Applegate and Rhonda Dixon
Boyd Applegate’s job is driving big-rig trucks. But his passion is Santa Claus.
Each Christmas Boyd dresses up as a “real-beard” Santa. He does it for love, not money–in more than 20 years he has never accepted payment for his services.
At StoryCorps, Boyd told his sister, Rhonda Dixon, how he got his start.
Boyd won the Goodyear Highway Hero Award in 1993 for saving 3 people from auto accidents.
Originally aired December 21, 2012 on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Les, Scott, Thea, and Amanda GrantSmith
In 1997, Les and Scott GrantSmiths’ marriage was on the rocks. They had been together for ten years and were raising two children. But Les was hiding something: although he was born female, he felt like a man in the wrong body. Keeping this secret caused Les to fall into a deep depression and withdraw from the rest of the family.
Finally, Scott confronted Les, and the GrantSmith family changed forever.
Les also spoke with his daughters, Thea and Amanda, about what his transition was like for them.
Originally aired March 7, 2012, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Ramón “Chunky” Sanchez
Ramón “Chunky” Sanchez was raised in a small farming community in southern California in the 1950s. As was common practice at that time, teachers at his local elementary school Anglicized the Mexican American students’ names.
Ramón came to StoryCorps to remember a classmate who proved to be the exception to the rule.
Click here to watch “Facundo the Great,” the StoryCorps animation of Ramón’s story.
Originally aired June 6, 2008, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Dan E. Andrews, Jr. and Mary McCormick
Mary McCormick and her father, Dan E. Andrews, Jr., discuss his childhood growing up during the Great Depression in America’s Dust Bowl region.
Dan shares a story of his scariest moment, telling Mary about a time when he was looking for coal along the railroad tracks with a friend and the friend’s little brother when the youngest boy’s shoe got wedged in the tracks requiring fast action and quick thinking.
Originally aired May 19, 2006, on NPR’s Morning Edition.