Romance – StoryCorps
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It Took 47 Years for These High School Sweethearts to Find Each Other Again

 Jimmy Neeley first met his high school sweetheart, Becky, in Spanish class at their high school in Longview, Texas. The year was 1969 and Becky was a sophomore while Jimmy was in his last year of school and getting ready to enlist in the Navy. 

 Middle photo: High school senior year portraits of Jimmy Neeley in 1969 and Becky Neeley in 1971.

When Becky turned 15, Jimmy took her on her first date and when he shipped off they wrote letters. Jimmy knew he was in love and even bought an engagement ring, but Becky had reservations. 

“My mom did not want me to be involved with anyone in the military during the time of Vietnam, because you don’t know what’s gonna happen,” she remembers. 

Becky declined Jimmy’s proposal and later sent him a “dear John” letter, breaking it off between the two of them. From there, their lives went in different directions. It took 47 years for them to be reunited.

Top Photo: Jimmy and Becky Neeley at their wedding in Rockwall, Texas, on Valentine’s Day of 2020.

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 March 17, 2023 , on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

“I Thought You Knew:” A Love Story Like No Other

In the mid-90s, Chhaya Chhoum shared some high school classes with Eddie Rivera. Eddie was more interested in sports than school, but the two connected.

Eddie Rivera and Chhaya Chhoum early in their relationship after a 1996 snow storm in New York City. Courtesy of Chhaya Chhoum.

Chhaya grew up the daughter of Cambodian refugees in the Bronx, and Eddie came from a Puerto Rican family in Manhattan. Starting out as just a friend, Eddie won over Chhaya – and her extended family. Chhaya and Eddie came to StoryCorps to reminisce about how they met and some of the unexpected ways their cultural differences shaped their relationship. .  

Top Photo: Chhaya Chhoum and Eddie Rivera at their StoryCorps interview in the Bronx, NY on January 11, 2014. By Jill Glaser 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 March 3, 2023, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

With your support, StoryCorps is able to record more stories that help lift up underrepresented voices, bridge political and social divides, and preserve personal histories for the future.

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Two Love Birds Bring The Holiday Spirit To The White House

Growing up in Piura, Peru Hugo Sánchez always noticed his classmate, Marité. But despite his best efforts she didn’t return his feelings. Hugo left Peru for the U.S. with his family at the age of 13, but returned for a summer vacation three years later.

This time, there was a spark. The two kicked up a whirlwind romance, but they were ripped apart as he returned to the states.  

Marité Espinoza Sánchez and Hugo Sánchez in 2007 in Urbana, IL. Courtesy of Marité Sánchez for StoryCorps.

In 2022 the couple had been married for 15 years and through Marité’s work as an expert crafter they were selected to volunteer as White House holiday decorators. Every holiday season, people from across the country are invited by First Lady Jill Biden to decorate the White House.

 

Marité Espinoza Sánchez and Hugo Sánchez at the White House Decorating Event in Washington, D.C. in November 2022. Courtesy of Marité Sánchez for StoryCorps.

Hugo and Marité Sánchez took a break from wreath making and tinsel spreading to record a conversation with StoryCorps.

 

Top Photo: Marité Espinoza Sánchez and Hugo Sánchez at their StoryCorps interview in Washington, D.C. on November 27, 2022. By Bella Gonzalez 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 23, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

With your support, StoryCorps is able to record more stories that help lift up underrepresented voices, bridge political and social divides, and preserve personal histories for the future.

Donate

“We Lived Happily Ever After”: Milt And Etta Share Their Love Story

In the summer of 1955, Milt Ehrlich knew he’d met the love of his life. Her name was Etta, and they were both applying to be counselors at a summer camp for children with special needs. 

“You’re going to marry me,” he told her. She was initially unsure, so much so she made Milt wait 5 years before ultimately saying yes. 

Throughout her life, Etta was consumed by her art and appreciated Milt’s enthusiasm for helping her find the raw materials she would use. He frequented garage sales to hunt for objects such as tools or bottles — so long as they had charm.

Etta and Milt Ehrlich in Prince Edward Island, Canada in the early 1980s. Photo courtesy of the Ehrlich family.

In 2014, the couple came to StoryCorps to record the story of their love, and talk about how they used art and creativity as a vehicle for grappling with aging, grief, and the fear of death. 

They were married for almost 62 years, until Etta’s death in August of 2021. She was 90 years old. Milt came back to StoryCorps a year later to remember her. 

Top Photo: Milt and Etta Ehrlich on their wedding anniversary in Prince Edward Island, Canada in August. 1985. Photo courtesy of the Ehrlich family.

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 Nov. 4, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Your support makes it possible for StoryCorps, an independently funded nonprofit, to collect, archive, and share the stories of people from all backgrounds because everyone’s stories deserve to be heard.

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A Couple Determined to Marry: How Jack Baker and Michael McConnell Became Husbands in 1971

In 1966, Michael McConnell and Jack Baker were introduced to one another by a friend at a Halloween barn party in Norman, Oklahoma. They quickly fell in love and decided to get married, despite the fact that it was illegal at the time.  

In the Spring of 1970, they walked into a government center in downtown Minneapolis, dressed in suits and ties, and applied for a marriage license. A few days later, they received a letter saying that their license had been denied. But they didn’t give up. 

Close-up of Jack Baker and Michael McConnell holding hands, featuring their wedding rings, in Minneapolis, Minn., March 2017. By Jhaleh Akhavan for StoryCorps.

They filed an appeal that went up to the United States Supreme Court. And even though their appeal was dismissed, in 1971 they found a way to become husbands. Jack and Michael came to StoryCorps to talk about their relationship, and how they made the law work in their favor. 

Michael McConnell (left) and Jack Baker (right) in their backyard in Minneapolis, Minn., July 2015.

 

Top Photo: Michael McConnell (left) and Jack Baker (right) with their wedding cake, featuring a two-groom topper, in Minneapolis, Minn. on September 3, 1971. By Paul Hagen. 

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 October 14, 2022 on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Hunny Reiken and Elliot Reiken

It was the summer of 1946 in the Catskills. Hunny Feller and her identical twin sister, Bunny, were waitresses at a hotel. Another set of identical twins, Elliot and Danny Reiken, worked as musicians in a band there.

At StoryCorps, Hunny and Elliot (below in 2010) remembered what happened when the twins met the twins.

ReikenFull

Originally broadcast May 28, 2010, on NPR’s Morning Edition. It was rebroadcast on May 6, 2022 on the same program.

Top photo: Danny and Bunny, and Hunny and Elliott, at their joint wedding. Courtesy of the Reiken family.
Bottom photo: Hunny and Elliott Reiken at their StoryCorps interview in New York City.

“We’re Stuck With Each Other”: An Unconventional Quarantine Love Story

Neil Kramer and Sophia Lansky married in 1996, but it didn’t work out. After they divorced, Neil moved across the country, but they still leaned on each other. 

At the end of 2019, when the pipes in Sophia’s apartment burst, she was stuck with no place to stay. So she called the one person she knew she could depend on.

Neil Kramer and Sophia Lansky holding hands in Queens, New York, in October of 2021, on what would have been their 25th wedding anniversary. Courtesy of Neil Kramer.

Sophia moved in with Neil at the beginning of 2020. Coincidentally, Neil’s mother also moved back in with him around the same time, and the three of them decided to share the two-bedroom New York apartment for what they thought would be “a few weeks”. 

Elaine Kramer (left), Neil Kramer, and Sophia Lansky in Queens NY, in May of 2021. Courtesy of Neil Kramer.

Exes Sophia and Neil came to StoryCorps to talk about what they’ve learned from living together during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Early on during the pandemic, Neil started chronicling their odd living arrangements through a photography project. 

From left to right: Sophia, Neil, and Elaine watching the news in March of 2020. Queens, New York. Courtesy of Neil Kramer. 

He’s still taking photographs of their shared experience. And the three of them are able to collectively tap into the humor and absurdity of their life.

Top Photo: Neil Kramer and Sophia Lansky on February 9th, 2022 in Queens, New York. Courtesy of Neil Kramer.

Originally aired February 11, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

“You Have a Place in My Life”: An Old Flame Finds a Way Forward

When Mary Clark and Ron Gibson were in their 30s, they began a whirlwind romance. What started as a white-hot connection flamed out quickly.

As time passed the two fell out of touch, living their lives on separate tracks. Nearly thirty years later Ron had a health scare and Mary got back in touch. 

Mary Clark and Ron Gibson after they reunited. Courtesy of Mary Clark.

When Ron and Mary reunited, they thought about picking up where they left off. The pair came to StoryCorps to reflect on what they’ve left behind and where they are now. 

Top Photo: Mary Clark and Ron Gibson at their StoryCorps interview in San Francisco on August 5, 2021. By Sam Fickinger for StoryCorps.

Originally aired October 1, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

“Never Say Goodbye”: Remembering The Love Between Danny And Annie

Danny Perasa proposed to Annie, his future wife, on their first date, and she accepted.

The two of them came to StoryCorps in 2004 to talk about that first date—and how their love for each other grew over their nearly 30 year relationship.

Annie and Danny at their StoryCorps Interview.

After their first interview, Danny and Annie instantly became part of the StoryCorps family. Danny came back to StoryCorps again and again to interview the characters he knew, and to talk about his love for Annie. Then, in 2006, Danny was diagnosed with a fast-spreading, terminal cancer. He wanted to record one last interview with Annie, so StoryCorps went to their home in Brooklyn. Danny Perasa died a week later.

After his passing, Annie received thousands of condolence letters from StoryCorps listeners and she read one every day until she died of COVID-19 in 2021. She was 79.

Top Photo: Danny and Annie on their wedding day (Courtesy of the participants).

Listen to an update from Annie in 2013, where she explained the philosophy that she shared with Danny, “Never Say Goodbye.”

Watch “Danny & Annie,” the StoryCorps animation of the Perasas’ interviews.

Originally aired August 11, 2004, on NPR’s Morning Edition, It was rebroadcast on August 20, 2021 on the same program.

“We Mesh Together Like One”: A Miami Love Story

In 1971 George Ju was running a Chinese restaurant in Miami, Florida. George was born in China and immigrated to the United States at the age of 10. After serving in the U.S. Navy, he settled in Miami, and this is where he met Angela Rivas.

One night, while attending her friend’s engagement party, Angela met George, who was cooking for the event. George was immediately smitten, and there began their journey of love and laughter.

Angela Ju and George Ju in Los Angeles, California Chinatown, in 1988. Courtesy of MJ Moneymaker.

George and Angela Ju came to StoryCorps, nearly 50 years later, to talk about falling in love and staying in love.

Top Photo: Angela Ju and George Ju at their StoryCorps interview in Spring Hill, Florida on October 21, 2018. By Morgan Feigal-Stickles for StoryCorps.

Originally aired March 19, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.