Jasmyn Morris (JM): In this week’s episode of the StoryCorps podcast… two near-death experiences and what it means to reconnect with the people who happened to be in the right place at the right time…
Marvin Goldstein (MG): Sal Mauriello, who was a barber, was coming home early that day. And he heard a woman scream. She pointed up to the window. And he took off his coat, and I fell into his arms.
Brad Jachna (BJ): I happened to look up your name and, sure as all heck, you came up. And I see a grown young man and then, goddamn, maybe I did have something to do with something good. So that’s when I messaged you.
JM: On this season of the StoryCorps podcast from NPR, we’re sharing stories of reunions.
Stay with us.
JM: At StoryCorps, we often say this podcast is a weekly dose of humanity. Just a brief reminder that when the world feels out of hand, there’s a lot of good out there too.
In this episode, two stories that prove that.
First, we’ll hear from Brad Jachna…
Back in the late 80s, Brad was living in Florida and working as a carpenter. Every day, he’d go to work alongside his good friend, Kip…
BJ: We were the bad-guy biker type, you know, the tattoos the long-hair, the earrings. Everybody always thought we were tough.
JM: …and one summer day they were on a construction job, building a house, when they saw a toddler walking at the far end of a nearby pond. The child had snuck out of his house without his parents noticing.
Three decades later, Brad reunited with that little boy – now 32-year-old, Tom Copeland for this StoryCorps interview.
BJ: I looked out the window and saw you out playing by the water. I didn’t like it but went back to work. Happened to look out the window again and I didn’t see you. And then I saw a little glimmer in the water, you know, a little splashing movement. And I turned and looked at Kip and I said, “The kid is in the water.”
We were on the second floor and the stairs weren’t in yet, so we just jumped off and ran. Kip dives in and starts swimming across the pond. I ran around and I remember I grabbed you and picked you up. And you were limp. You were not breathing.
Tom Copeland (TC): I must have been under the water for a scary amount of time.
BJ: It seemed like a long time but it only could have been seconds. I was slapping you on the back and you started coughing. And I heard you catch that first breath of air.
TC: It’s pretty clear to me that without you and Kip being there working on that house that day, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now.
Did you and Kip talk a lot about that day as the years went on?
BJ: He had the newspaper’s article in his shop on the wall and it was in a frame. And we’d talk about it. Once in a while – “I wonder what happened to him? I wonder what he’s doing?”
So I happened to look up your name and, sure as all heck, you came up. And I see a grown young man and then, God damn, maybe I did have something to do with something good. So that’s when I messaged you.
TC: Of course, I hadn’t known anything about you up until that point, so it was really exciting to hear from you.
Can you tell me a little bit about your friend Kip? I never had the opportunity to meet him and, sadly, I won’t.
BJ: Yeah, he’s been gone two years. I loved him like a brother. He was one hell of a loving father and he had a raspy voice, you know, and he talked loud. There was no whisper in that man, so, if he had a secret, he had to leave the building not the room.
TC: What do you think Kip might say if he had a chance to meet me?
BJ: I know he’d give you a hug and say he’s happy. I’m just glad you’re alive and breathing and Kip and I both had a small part in it.
I have not been the nicest person that people would want to meet. I’m a big-mouth. But, everything that you’re doing, the non-profit stuff – if you would have passed, all the people that you have affected in your life, how much of that would not be if you weren’t?
So it makes me feel good inside. For something that, in real life time didn’t take five minutes, but it’s lasted a lifetime.
JM: That’s Brad Jachna reuniting with the man he saved from drowning 30 years ago, Tom Copeland.
The other man who helped save Tom, Kip Kerfoot, died in 2016.
Tom, who is now the same age Brad and Kip were when they rescued him, went on to start a nonprofit in Florida aimed at preventing gun violence. Brad has since retired from a long career as a carpenter.
Next, how another reunion decades after a near death experience closed a chapter on a story that became legend in one family.
Stay with us.
JM: Welcome back.
Marvin Goldstein grew up in Brooklyn in the 40’s…
He and his family lived in an apartment building – on the fifth floor – and when Marvin was two years old, he fell out of their kitchen window.
Here he is with his son, Eric…
Marvin Goldstein (MG): The windows at that time did not have window guards. I leaned out and I had one hand on the window inside, and the other hand; I was leaning out and let go. And I fell five stories. Sal Mauriello, who was a barber, was coming home early that day. And he heard a woman scream. She pointed up to the window. And he took off his coat, and I fell into his arms.
Eric Goldstein (EG): Is that what happened? I mean, he took his jacket off and he used his jacket as a bit of a net to catch you?
EG: Good thing he was a good catch. [laughs]
MG: So, I fractured my nose but there was no trauma. And I became very popular in the neighborhood. My mother’s name was Blanche, and I was known as Blanche’s son who fell out of the window. [laughs]
EG: So whatever happened to Sal? I mean, he’s a patron saint Sal. He’s our hero.
MG: Well, it turned out that his daughter was a reporter and every Passover holiday, he would say: I wonder what happened to Marvin Goldstein? So finally, she said, “Dad, let’s see if we can find out.” And so what happened was we met, and it was absolutely thrilling to see Sal. We hugged, we kissed, and it was a glorious reunion.
EG: I remember that, because it was on my birthday, April 24th, 1988. And I got a copy of the Daily News, and there was a picture on the cover of you and Sal, and the headline: Catch.
MG: We went to the building where I fell out from the window and he caught me, and he told Mom and I that he kept the jacket with the blood from my nose. He never cleaned it, and he kept it in his closet. His wife said that this was one of the most important days in his life. And, I said, well, his being there for me, of course, was one of the most important days in my life. And he was just so, so happy that we were together again.
JM: Marvin Goldstein and his son Eric at StoryCorps in New York City.
And kind of like how Sal wondered whatever happened to Marvin, we got to wondering whatever happened to Sal. Turns out, Sal died four years after reuniting with Marvin.
So almost a decade after the Goldsteins recorded their story, two of Sal’s children, Marjorie and Ralph, came to StoryCorps to remember their father…
Marjorie Mauriello Baker (MMB): Tell me about a time dad made you laugh.
Ralph Mauriello (RM): We don’t have time.
MMB: [Laughs] That’s true.
RM: He loved people. And of course that’s the reason, I think, he loved being a barber. Whenever they brought a kid into the barbershop for a haircut it was an experience… for the kid. [laughs] You know, you get a little boy sitting in the barber chair, kid might be 8 years old, and he’d say, “Say, your mother says you’re getting married. When are you getting married?” So he was a tease, that’s all there is to it.
He had a barbershop right across the street from the high school. The high school kids would come over for a haircut and they would tell him their problems and he would provide advice. And he was just that kind of guy. He was always trying to help.
Marj, what was the first time you remember hearing about Marvin Goldstein?
MMB: I think I was in my teens—Dad would tell the story over and over again.
RM: What I remember, of course, is Dad came home after the incident. And there was blood on his coat and he was really shook up. That was not his personality. Dad was always happy and bubbly and nothing seemed to really bother him.
MMB: For decades, when he would tell this story, he’d say, “You know, I just don’t know what happened to Marvin.”
RM: You know, if you save someone’s life, and it was pretty obvious to him that he did, he wanted to know that Marvin was alive and well.
MMB: My folks came to LA in 1948, so when they’d go back to visit, he’d go to the phone book and look up Goldstein. There were always too many.
RM: And every Goldstein he found wasn’t the right one. So I think that’s what prompted Bob to say, let me see if I can solve the problem.
Bob was Marjorie’s husband, and the reunion isn’t exactly as Marvin remembered it in his StoryCorps interview. It was actually Marjorie’s husband who was the reporter. He worked for The Los Angeles Times.
MMB: So he wrote a column about dad and his quest to find Marvin, and dad was 80 when this happened. And when they met, dad was very emotional. I mean, he always put on a tough face, but oh my gosh—he told me that he took Marvin’s cheek, you know, like the Italians do — pull out the cheek and threw his arm around him. So it was quite a reunion and really, really beautiful for the two men. After the reunion, Marvin’s son went up to my dad and said, “Thank you for saving my dad’s life because without him, I wouldn’t be here.”
JM: After Sal died in 1992, Marjorie’s husband, Bob, wrote the obituary… and the rescue is mentioned in the very first line.
RM: Actually, it was a rather large obituary, and you couldn’t write that much without mentioning Marvin because it’s probably the most significant thing he did in his life.
MMB: To be responsible for saving somebody like that…what better way to be remembered?
JM: That’s Marjorie Mauriello Baker and Ralph Mauriello remembering their father, Sal.
That’s it for this week’s episode. It was produced by Jud Esty-Kendall, Danielle Roth, Sylvie Lubow and me. Our engineer is Michael Raphael. Our fact-checker is Natsumi Ajisaka. Special thanks to Katie Simon and Mike Rauch.
Please write us a review wherever you get your podcasts — tell us what you think. You can also speak directly to anyone you’ve heard on this podcast by calling 301 744 TALK and leaving a voicemail.
To find out what music we used in this episode and to sign up for your own interview… visit our website, storycorps DOT org.
For the StoryCorps podcast, I’m Jasmyn Morris. Thanks for listening.