“It’s Still Worth Celebrating” Two Friends Reflect on Finding Joy During Challenging Times
Jamie Olivieri and Yennie Neal-Achigbu have been by each other’s side since the fifth grade. As adults, Jamie was there for the birth of two of Yennie’s three children, and has acted as a surrogate parent for the kids. They fondly refer to her as “Auntie Pasta.”
They’ve shared many happy moments and have also stood by each other through the passing of Jamie’s mom and Yennie’s husband, Alexander Achigbu. They supported each other through the grief of both losses, and even created new traditions in the midst of the sadness.
Photo: (Left to right) Zuri, Xoan, and Lyon Achigbu. Christmas 2014, Bronx, NY. Courtesy of Jamie Olivieri.
“Auntie Pasta’s Annual Christmastime Sleepover,” a tradition that started after Alexander’s death, is an eagerly anticipated Christmas celebration for Jamie, Yennie, and Yennie’s three children, Zuri (aged 10), Lyon (age 8), and Xoan (age 6).
After a tough 2020, Jamie and Yennie had a conversation using StoryCorps Connect to reflect on almost 30 years of friendship, and how they continue to find joy even in the most challenging of times.
Top Photo: (L) Yennie Neal-Achigbu and Jamie Olivieri, 1998. (R) Yennie Neal-Achigbu and Jamie Olivieri, 2012, Yonkers, NY. Courtesy of Jamie Olivieri.
Originally aired December 25, 2020, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Jess Buzzutto, Eileen Logiudice, and Tori Medina
St. Patrick’s Day in Yonkers, New York has not been the same since Jess Buzzutto died in 2012. With a five-foot frame and a sartorial preference for the color green, he was affectionately dubbed by his neighbors the Leprechaun of Yonkers.
Jess embraced what he called his “leprechaunishness.” A fixture on the street of Yonkers for many years, he was well-known as a friendly neighborhood denizen who loved to care for his garden, always ready to provide a passing car with a wave and a smile.
In 2010, Jess came to StoryCorps with his sister, Eileen Logiudice, and niece, Tori Medina, to talk about how it all started, by chance, with a green felt hat.
Eileen and Tori returned to StoryCorps in 2017, just before St. Patrick’s Day, to record a tribute to Jess.
Top photo: by Richard Perry/The New York Times/Redux
Bottom photo: Eileen Logiudice (left) and Tori Medina (right)
Originally aired March 17, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Sister Mary DeSalles Collins
Sister Mary DeSalles Collins recalls an early morning trip to a bar she once made to ensure that a child she was attempting to place with an adoptive family had a new home for Christmas.
Originally aired December 26, 2008, on NPR’s Morning Edition.