Washington – StoryCorps
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“Why He Was Unknown Is A Mystery”: Remembering One Gay Man Who Sued For The Right To Work

In the 1970s, Faygele ben Miriam returned from serving overseas in the Army during the Vietnam war, and he settled in Seattle, Washington. Born John Singer, he changed his name to Faygele – meaning “little bird’ in Yiddish – to reclaim its derogatory use for “effeminate gay men.” And to honor his mother, he added “ben Miriam,” literally meaning “Little Bird, son of Miriam.” 

Faygele was an explosive character, and he often challenged his friends and colleagues to think of freedom in everything from how they dressed to who they stood up for, and at what cost. He was willing to put everything on the line – even his own safety – if it meant making the world a better place to live. And he earned the trust of his peers for taking bold, direct action. In 1971, Faygele applied for a marriage license with his friend and lover, Paul Barwick, an act that was unthinkable at the time.

Being so open, he was known for often wearing dresses in public because he was unafraid to proclaim his sexuality, no matter what room he was in. And in 1974, his frankness set the stage for a discrimination lawsuit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), when they unjustly fired him for his sexuality.

Ronni Gilboa and Patrick Haggerty at their StoryCorps interview in Bremerton, Washington on August 13, 2022. By Bella Gonzalez for StoryCorps.

Faygele died in 2000, at the age of 55. And recently, Faygele’s friends, Patrick Haggerty and Ronni Gilboa, came to StoryCorps to remember the man who left an indelible mark on their lives. 

Top Photo: Faygele ben Miriam at his last Seder before his death in 2000. Courtesy of the University of Washington Library, Geoff Manasse special collection.

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 September 16, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Even Though He Wasn’t A “Tough Guy,” This Purple Heart Vet Made His Mark In Vietnam

As a child, Richard Hoy dreamed of becoming a hero, like the ones he saw in Hollywood movies. Growing up sheltered from the outside world, he wanted a life of adventure. So when he was 18 years old, he enlisted in the U.S. Army.

By 19, he was serving as a medic in Vietnam, and what he encountered in the field challenged his notion of being a “hero.” 

Richard Hoy (left) at his new assignment after recovering from a gunshot wound to his abdomen, and a concussion by a grenade. He is applying a fresh dressing on a patient shot with an AK-47. Circa 1971, Fort Ord Hospital, CA. Courtesy of Richard Hoy.

One day, his unit surrounded a village in Vietnam, and Richard remembers seeing a North Vietnamese soldier staring at him 50 feet away. Presented with the opportunity to shoot, he didn’t. He questioned if he was cut out for war. 

Five decades later, he came to StoryCorps with his daughter, Angel Hoy, to share how being a medic on the front lines of war shaped him.

Originally aired March 5 on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.

Top Photo: Richard and Angel Hoy in Seattle, WA on Feb. 22, 2022. Courtesy of Richard Hoy.

This interview was recorded in partnership with KUOW as part of StoryCorps’ Military Voices Initiative.

“Our Bodies Are Just A Shell;” A Mother’s Wisdom On Life And Death

One fall day in 1999, Carolyn DeFord’s mother, a Puyallup tribal member, disappeared on her way to a friend’s house in La Grande, Oregon, and was never seen again. It’s just one case in the nationwide crisis of missing or murdered Indigenous women.

Carolyn first came to StoryCorps in 2019 to remember receiving the phone call that her mother, Leona Kinsey, had gone missing.

Leona Kinsey pictured at her home in La Grande, OR. (Courtesy Carolyn DeFord.)

But she still had more she wanted to share, so two years later, she came back to reflect on how she carries her mother’s disappearance and remember the stories that have given her comfort and hope in her healing journey.

Carolyn’s grandson, Caspian Hayes, soon after his birth in October of 2021. (Courtesy Carolyn DeFord.)
Top Photo: Carolyn DeFord at her StoryCorps interview on January 24, 2019 in Renton, WA. Carolyn poses with the Missing poster for her mother, Leona Kinsey, who went missing October 1999,
Dupe Oyebolu for StoryCorps.

Originally aired December 3, 2021 on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

From Beets to Brilliance: A Grandmother’s Wisdom Lives On

Chloe Longfellow’s father died when she was just 3 years old. In order to support the family, Chloe’s mother, Dorsey Romano, was forced to take on a variety of jobs, some of which required her to work nights.

While her mother was called away, Chloe spent a great deal of time at her grandparents’ home and became especially close to her grandmother, Doris Louise Rolison.

Despite living in the Arizona desert, Doris maintained a lush garden of herbs and vegetables. Chloe would help harvest the food to make dishes from recipes found in one of her grandmother’s treasured cookbooks.

At StoryCorps, Chloe remembers the happy memories and life lessons taught to her by her grandmother, many of which took place in the kitchen.

Top photo: Chloe Longfellow at her StoryCorps interview in Seattle, WA.
Bottom photo: The cookbook, featuring the beet-juice handprints. Photo courtesy of Chloe Longfellow.

This story originally aired December 11, 2015 on NPR’s Morning Edition. It was rebroadcast April 03, 2020 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

‘Excitement Often Means Danger’: A Mother And Son Remember Life On The Fire Line

Connie Mehmel was a young mother when she started fighting wildfires in Washington state, in the late 1970s. Her son, Ian, would eventually follow in her footsteps. After 42 years working for the Forest Service, Connie retired in September of 2019.

Connie and Ian sat down at StoryCorps to talk about working life side by side on the fire line.

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Top photo: Ian Bennett and his mom, Connie Mehmel, at their StoryCorps interview in Wenatchee, WA on June 4, 2009. By Chaela Herridge-Meyer for StoryCorps.
Middle photo: Connie Mehmel stands in uniform in 2012 at Summer Blossom. Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, WA.

Originally aired Friday, September 13th, 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Carolyn DeFord

Carolyn DeFord, a Puyallup tribal member, grew up with her mom, Leona Kinsey, in a trailer park in La Grande, Oregon. Twenty years ago, Leona disappeared on her way to her friend’s house, and was never seen again.

She is part of an epidemic of Native American women who have gone missing and never been found.

No one knows exactly how many Native women are missing or murdered, though a report put out by the Urban Indian Health Institute in 2017 cited 5,712 reports of slain or missing Native American women and girls by the National Crime Information Center. Only 116 of those cases were logged into the Department of Justice database for missing persons.

Carolyn came to StoryCorps to remember when she received the phone call that her mother had gone missing.

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Leona’s case has never been solved. Since her mother’s disappearance, Carolyn has worked to help the families of other missing and murdered indigenous women.

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Top photo: Carolyn DeFord poses with the Missing poster for her mother, Leona Kinsey, who went missing October 1999, at her StoryCorps interview on January 24, 2019 in Renton, WA. By Dupe Oyebolu for StoryCorps.
Middle photo: Carolyn DeFord poses with her mother and daughter in La Grande, OR in their last photograph together before Leona disappeared in 1999. Courtesy Carolyn DeFord.

Bottom photo: Leona Kinsey pictured at her home in La Grande, OR. Courtesy Carolyn DeFord.

Originally aired March 29, 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Remembering the Assassination of Civil Rights Leader Edwin Pratt

This is a story about an assassination of a Civil Rights leader you might not know about.

Throughout the 1960s, a man named Edwin Pratt was the head of the Seattle Urban League, where he rallied against discrimination in hiring, education, and housing.

 

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On a snowy night in 1969, three men carried out a hit on Pratt in his home, while his wife and five-year-old daughter Miriam were inside.

Miriam recently came to StoryCorps with her godmother Jean Soliz, who was her babysitter and neighbor at the time, to remember the aftermath.

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After 50 years, the investigation of Edwin Pratt’s murder remains unsolved.

Top photo: A family photo of Bettye, Miriam, and Edwin Pratt together in 1966. Courtesy Jean Soliz.
Middle photo: Miriam Pratt and Jean Soliz pose at their StoryCorps interview in Renton, WA on January 22, 2019. Photo by Dupe Oyebolu for StoryCorps.
Bottom photo: Jean Soliz and Miriam Pratt make the black power pose together, a few months after Edwin Pratt’s assassination in 1969. Courtesy Jean Soliz.

Originally aired March 22, 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Jayne Fuentes and Luis Fuentes

Jayne Fuentes has been working to rebuild her life after spending more than 15 years in and out of jail on drug and theft charges. After her last jail sentence ended in 2013, she found that she owed tens of thousands of dollars in court fines and fees. At StoryCorps in Richland, Washington, she sat down with her son, Luis, to talk about the impact of these fines on both of their lives.

Fuentes16x9Jayne and Luis’s conversation was recorded through the StoryCorps Justice Project, which preserves and amplifies the stories of people who have been directly impacted by mass incarceration. The Justice Project is made possible, in part, with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge, #RethinkJails, and the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation.

Released May 4, 2017.

Jasmine Pacheco and Carmen Pacheco-Jones

Carmen Pacheco-Jones grew up in an unstable home and had stopped attending school by the time she was 13 years old. She was abusing drugs and alcohol, and throughout her childhood, she spent time in and out of more than a dozen foster homes.

Her drug and alcohol dependence continued into adulthood—even as Carmen started her own family. Her five children remember being raised in a chaotic home; that changed nearly 20 years ago when police in Washington state raided the house where the family was living. Following her arrest, the children were separated and placed in different foster homes.

At StoryCorps, Carmen sat down with her 27-year-old daughter, Jasmine, who was 10 years old when the raid took place, to remember what it was like when their family reconnected after being torn apart.

Today Carmen has been alcohol and drug free for 17 years and is a part of all of her children and grandchildren’s lives. This winter Jasmine is on track to graduate from Eastern Washington University with a degree in psychology and a minor in art.

Originally aired October 28, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Jay Hollingsworth and Rick Williams

On August 30, 2010, Native American woodcarver John T. Williams was crossing the street while carving a piece of wood when he was shot and killed by a Seattle Police Department officer. John, 50, a member of the Nitinaht First Nation was deaf in one ear and didn’t immediately respond to Officer Ian Birk’s calls to put his knife down. Less than five seconds after giving his first command, Officer Birk had shot John four times.

williams1John descends from generations of well-known and respected carvers whose work is part of museum collections and has been sold for more than a century at Seattle’s famous Ye Olde Curiosity Shop. He carved his first totem when he was just 4 years old and knew more than 250 figures by heart.

Even with a long history of alcohol abuse and homelessness, carving in Seattle’s Victor Steinbrueck Park was a near constant activity towards the end of John’s life. He spent the morning of the shooting in the park with his brother, Rick Williams, carving together. Rick was waiting for John to rejoin him when he heard about what had happened.

In February 2011, the Seattle Police Department’s Firearms Review Board found unequivocally that the use of deadly force by Officer Birk was unjustified and recommended that Officer Birk be “stripped of all Seattle Police powers and authority.” Shortly thereafter, Officer Birk resigned. In April of 2011, the city settled all legal claims with the Williams family for $1.5 million.

Rick, who visits his brother’s grave weekly, is teaching his own sons to carve so that they will carry on the family tradition. He also continues to carve in Victor Steinbrueck Park where he last spent time with his brother.

At StoryCorps, Rick (right) and his friend, Jay Westwind Wolf Hollingsworth (left), remember John and the day that he was killed.

Originally aired October 7, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Top photo of John taken on August 30, 2010, the day he was killed, courtesy of Jay Hollingsworth, John T. Williams Organizing Committee.