Remembrance Archives - StoryCorps

“It Feels Like a Gift”: How Taking a Name Kept One Man’s Legacy Alive

In 1981, the death of 21-year-old Cameroonian man Acha Mbiwan devastated his family. Losing Acha — known for his mischievous sense of humor and prodigious intelligence — sent shockwaves through the family’s tight-knit community.  

For more than 40 years, they found it difficult to even speak about Acha. But little did they know that Acha had befriended an American man in college named Atiba, who was so moved by Acha’s death that he took his friend’s last name, Mbiwan, as a tribute.

In 2012, Acha’s sisters Didi Ndando and Egbe Monjimbo learned of Atiba’s existence after stumbling across him on the internet. All three sat down for StoryCorps to talk about what happened next.

This story was adapted from the StoryCorps Podcast. To hear the full story, listen to the episode: “One Who Is Understanding

Top Photo: Didi Ndando, Atiba Mbiwan, and Egbe Monjimbo at a reunion for Atiba’s family in Atlanta in 2014. Courtesy of Egbe Monjimbo.
Middle Photo: Acha Mbiwan posing in a photo booth in 1980 in Paris, France. Courtesy of Egbe Monjimbo.

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 2, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition

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“We’re Stuck With Each Other”: 50 Years of Friendship And Troublemaking

In the 1970s Gary “Zooks” Bezucha was in school to become a physical therapist in Madison, Wisconsin. He kept running into another student time and again, Greg Klatkiewicz.

Greg Klatkiewicz and Gary “Zooks” Bezucha camping in 1996. Courtesy of Greg Klatkiewicz.

Gary and Greg instantly became a dynamic duo, that is until Greg introduced his friend to a hilarious woman he knew from work, Janet. Gary and Janet started dating soon after, and the dynamic duo became the “three amigos.”

Janet Bezucha and Gary “Zooks” Bezucha camping in 2003. Courtesy of Gary Bezucha.

Now, after nearly 50 years, Greg and Gary came to StoryCorps to recount some of the memories that truly stand out.

Top Photo: Greg Klatkiewicz and Gary “Zooks” Bezucha camping in 2019. Courtesy of Greg Klatkiewicz.
Editor’s note: Diane Bezucha, who co-produced this interview, is a StoryCorps employee, and is the daughter of Gary Bezucha.
Originally aired July 23, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Remembering A Marine Who, After Serving His Country, Put Serving Veterans First

After serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, Marine Corporal Josh Dunne worked as an advocate for veterans seeking higher education. He even went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in social work from New Mexico State University, graduating on the same day as his wife, Melanie Dunne.

Photo: Marine Corporal Josh Dunne in his service photo. Courtesy of Melanie Dunne.

Still, he faced his own internal struggles following a service-related traumatic brain injury and severe PTSD. In 2016, while experiencing a mental health crisis, Josh died in an officer-involved shooting.

In 2020, Melanie came to StoryCorps with her sister, Marissa Miranda, to remember what Josh meant to their family and his fellow veterans.

Photo: Melanie Dunne and Marissa Miranda at their StoryCorps interview in Las Cruces, NM on March 13, 2020. By Zazil Davis-Vazquez for StoryCorps.
Top Photo: Melanie Dunne and her husband, Josh, at their graduation from New Mexico State, University. Courtesy of Melanie Dunne.

If you or someone you know is in crisis and you need immediate help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or go here for online chat.

Originally aired May 29, 2021, on NPR’s Weekend Edition.

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

“He Did His Own Eulogy”: An Eyewitness Recalls Dr. King’s Final Speech

In 1968, more than 1,300 Black sanitation workers began to strike in Memphis, Tennessee, demanding better working conditions and fair wages. Clara Jean Ester, then a 19-year-old college junior, joined the protests in solidarity.

Photo: A young Clara Jean Ester, who graduated from Memphis State College, now known as the University of Memphis, in 1969. Courtesy of Clara Jean Ester.

When Clara wasn’t in school, every spare moment she had was spent on the picket lines or at the strike headquarters, Clayborn Temple. And later that year, Clara witnessed Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. give his final speech in Memphis. The next day, she was at the Lorraine Motel when Dr. King was assassinated. 

Clara, now 72, sat down for StoryCorps in Mobile, Alabama, to talk about bearing witness to Dr. King’s final days.

Top Photo: The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. stands on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN, a day before he was assassinated at approximately the same place. From left to right, Hosea Williams, Jesse Jackson, King, and Ralph Abernathy. (AP Photo/Charles Kelly, File).

Originally aired January 15, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Touched By Tragedy Twice: Father, Who Later Died from COVID, Remembers Losing Son on 9/11

Albert Petrocelli Sr. survived more than his share of hardships during his 73 years.

As a young man, he fought in Vietnam. Returning to his native New York City, he started a long career fighting fires, eventually rising to the rank of Battalion Chief. Then, a year after retiring, Chief Petrocelli lost his youngest son, Mark, a commodities broker, in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. 

But what war, fire, and unspeakable grief couldn’t do, a global pandemic did. On April 1, 2020, Chief Petrocelli died from COVID-19.

Before his death, Chief Petrocelli and his wife, Ginger, recorded a remembrance of their son Mark. They remember the last time they saw him, on September 9, 2001, at one of their family’s weekly Sunday meals. 

This recording was made in partnership with the National September 11 Memorial & Museum as part of StoryCorps’ effort to collect one recording for each life lost that day.

Top Photo: Ginger Petrocelli and Retired New York City Fire Chief Albert Petrocelli in 2017, at their 50th wedding anniversary. Courtesy of the Petrocelli family.
Middle Photo: Retired New York City Fire Chief Albert Petrocelli in 2002, with a photo of Mark that he carried inside his hat. Courtesy of the Petrocelli family.
Bottom Photo: Albert Petrocelli Jr., Mark Petrocelli, and Albert Petrocelli Sr. on Father’s Day 1989, at Mark’s home in New York. Courtesy of the Petrocelli family.

Originally aired September 11, 2020, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

They Called Him Papu: The Life of a Beloved Grandfather

During World War II, Ricardo Ovilla came from Chiapas, Mexico as part of the Bracero Program, the largest guest worker program in U.S. history. He went where the work took him, travelling across the country to pick fruits and lay railways. It was hard labor, but Ricardo hoped to build his family a home in a new country. Eventually he did just that, bringing his wife and kids to the United States. 

In those early days, things were tough. Ricardo’s whole family worked alongside him in the fields picking fruits amidst thorny branches. But no matter how hard things got, Ricardo refused to be demoralized. He’s remembered by his granddaughters Martha Escutia and Marina Jimenez as an eternal optimist — a man “whose mission was just to bring joy to his family and his kids.”

At StoryCorps in July of 2020, Martha and Marina took time to reflect on Ricardo’s incredible journey. He was born of the Zoque People in Southern Mexico, and joined the Mexican Navy at 18. He crossed the border in El Paso, Texas and picked fruit in fields where Disneyland stands today. 

A young Ricardo Ovilla, who served in the Mexican Navy when he was just 18. Courtesy of Martha Escutia.

Ricardo passed away in 1999, shortly after naturalizing as a U.S. citizen. But he lives on in his granddaughters’ stories. To them, he will always be the tender hearted, marimba-loving, menudo aficionado who stopped at nothing to see his children laugh. They knew him simply as “Papu.”

Ricardo “Papu” Ovilla with his wife Marina “Mamina,” surrounded by their grandchildren. Courtesy of Marina Jimenez.

This story was recorded as part of American Pathways, StoryCorps’ new initiative to record, preserve, and share the stories and experiences of immigrants, refugees, asylees, and Muslims living in the United States. Learn more here.

Top Photo: (L) Ricardo “Papu” Ovilla with daughter (R) Martha Sandoval and their family’s first car. Seated inside are Ricardo’s children Aurelia and Rodolfo Sandoval. Photo taken in 1949 at a labor camp in Escondido, CA. Courtesy of Marina Jimenez.

Originally aired August 21, 2020, on NPR’s Morning Edition.