Seventy-year-old Jim Von Stein was a Navy kid, and grew up all over the country before his family landed in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
He became a draftsman by trade before retiring as an HVAC service technician, where he would crawl under houses installing heating and air conditioning units—hard work that often involved handling hazardous materials.
But if you were looking around his trailer in rural Tennessee, you’d see mountains of songbooks and homemade recordings, and scraps of paper and napkins scribbled with lyrics. These are songs he’s been writing since he was nine years old, that almost nobody has ever heard.
Jason and Jim Von Stein in Birmingham, Alabama, in August of 2018. Courtesy of the Von Stein family.
Jim came to StoryCorps with his son, Jason, to look back on a life of music and the ultimate gesture of love.
Jim and Jason Von Stein on September 18th, 1982, in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Courtesy of the Von Stein family.
Top Photo: Jim and Jason Von Stein at their StoryCorps interview in Chattanooga, TN on April 1st, 2019. By Eleanor Vassili 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 10th, 2023 on NPR’s Morning Edition.