(Left-Right) Oshea Israel, Mary Johnson-Roy, and Ed Roy.

At StoryCorps, we mourn the loss of Mary Johnson-Roy, a cherished member of our family, who passed away on March 27, 2024, at the age of 71 after a four-year battle with Lewy Body Dementia.

Mary lost her only child, Laramiun Byrd, to gun violence in 1993. A dozen years later, she went to the penitentiary to visit Oshea Israel, the man who had taken her son’s life. After serving 15 years, Oshea was released from prison, and Mary brought him to StoryCorps to talk about the remarkable friendship they’d formed.

Mary continued to spread her message of the power of forgiveness through her organization, From Death To Life, a non-profit dedicated to ending violence through healing and reconciliation between families of victims and those who have caused harm. It was through her tireless work that Mary crossed paths with her future husband, Ed Roy, who had also experienced the loss of a son to homicide. In 2017, Mary returned to StoryCorps to share her love story with Ed. In 2023, Mary, Oshea, and Ed recorded their final StoryCorps conversation, documenting Mary’s illness and providing an update on their extraordinary bond.

From the moment I met Mary in 2011, to our last phone call just days before her death, I have been in complete and utter awe of her. The warmth, the sturdiness, the grace, and the brilliance that comes through in her StoryCorps interviews was magnified in person. She was a force of a woman and it’s been the honor of a lifetime getting to know her and her loved ones over the last 13 years. It’s hard to imagine the world without her in it, and we will all miss her terribly. That being said, she created such an enormous legacy, there’s no doubt her impact will be felt for decades to come.

Photo (c) Brian Mogren. Jasmyn with Facilitator Gaspar Caro during an interview with Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel in Minneapolis in 2011.

Thank you, Mary Johnson-Roy for teaching us all about what it means to be forgiving, generous, and loving. I know she believed she would be reunited with her beloved son, Laramiun, someday. I would love to think they are together again. Rest in peace, Mother Mary. — Jasmyn Morris

Mary’s impactful journey has become a timeless StoryCorps classic, prompting subsequent follow-ups with her. In honoring Mary’s memory, we invite you to listen to the powerful conversations she has shared with us over the years.

Mary’s loved ones have created a legacy fund in her name. More information can be found here.

Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel

She lost her only son to gun violence, but she found a way to forgive and formed a friendship to last a lifetime. One night, 16-year-old Oshea Israel got into a fight at a party. It ended when he shot and killed Laramiun Byrd, the only child of Mary Johnson. 11 years after the trial, Mary spoke to Oshea face to face.

As Her Memory Dims, One Remarkable Mother Remains A Beacon of Light

In honor of our 20th anniversary, Mary and Oshea returned to StoryCorps this year to reflect on how the foundation of forgiveness in their extraordinary connection has impacted their lives, and the lives of others.

Mother Mary

StoryCorps Then and Now: Mother Mary
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Mary Johnson-Roy first came to StoryCorps in 2011 to speak with Oshea Israel, the man who murdered her son. In the latest episode from our special series celebrating StoryCorps’ 20th anniversary, we’ll share updates on a conversation none of us imagined would happen back when StoryCorps started.