For the second year in a row, StoryCorps invited everyone to take part in The Great Thanksgiving Listen—our effort to collect and preserve intergenerational interviews over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. And while tens of thousands of TGTL conversations continue to be archived and listened to, one interview in particular has gotten us wondering: Is it ever too late to make amends?
The day after Thanksgiving, Dr. Joseph Linsk was joined in his Atlantic City, New Jersey, home by his son Richard. Dr. Linsk, 94, whose practice once focused on treating patients with cancer and blood diseases, is now himself in poor health and living with Parkinson’s disease. During the recording, Dr. Linsk shared a story that he says has left him “smitten with grief” for more than 80 years.
When he was 8 years old, Dr. Linsk was playing with friends in the schoolyard when he unintentionally broke another child’s glasses. Needing to pay for their repair, he stole the money his mother had left for their family cleaning lady, an African American woman named Pearl. When Pearl asked for her pay, Dr. Linsk’s mother accused her of stealing and a young Dr. Linsk said nothing. His mother fired Pearl, whom he remembers as having a few children, and word quickly spread that Pearl was a thief, damaging her reputation and making it impossible for her to find work again.
There is also Pearl’s side to the story. How did this lie and the cover-up affect her and her family? Unfortunately, Dr. Linsk doesn’t know her full name or any further details about her family, but he did grow up on Atlantic Avenue in the Uptown section of Atlantic City in the early 1930s, so if you believe you know anything about her or any of her surviving family members, we would love to hear from you.
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Originally aired December 9, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.