Judy Charest and Harold Hogue
On December 24, 1956, Marguerite Hunt drove with her 3-month-old daughter, Judy, to the Shelby Street Bridge (now called the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge) in Nashville, Tennessee, got out of her car, and with her baby in her arms, jumped 90 feet into the cold waters of the Cumberland River.
Harold Hogue, an engineer with the Nashville Bridge Company was at work in a nearby building and happened to see the incident unfold through an office window. Immediately, he and his colleague, Jack Knox, ran to the river and saw Marguerite in the water holding onto a piece of rebar pleading for someone to save her baby. Jack jumped into the water and grabbed Judy, swam back to shore, handed her to Harold, and headed back into the river in an attempt to now save Marguerite. Harold rushed Judy to the first aid station in the Nashville Bridge Company building and left the infant in the care of a nurse; with help from others, including Harold, Marguerite was saved as well.
When Judy Charest was 21 years old, Marguerite was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It was also the first time Judy learned of the Christmas Eve incident on the bridge. Jack passed away in 2005, and Marguerite died in 2015. Recently, Harold told his grandson about the rescue and he was able to track down Judy allowing them to meet again almost 60 years after Harold helped save her life.
At StoryCorps, Judy and Harold discuss both of their meetings.
Originally aired December 23, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Above: Rescuers pull Marguerite Hunt onto the shore of the Cumberland River. Harold Hogue is in the foreground in a white shirt, dark pants, and wearing a watch. Originally published Christmas Eve 1956, photo courtesy of Mike Hudgins/The Nashville Retrospect.
Francisco Ortega and Kaya Ortega
Growing up in rural Tijuana, Mexico, Francisco Ortega was among the youngest of his family’s 10 children. In 1975, his parents made the difficult decision to leave him and his siblings in the care of his beloved aunt, Trinidad, and move to Los Angeles to find work. Once there, his father worked as a busboy and his mother as a seamstress in a clothing factory; each month they sent back money for food and clothing.
Only about 6 years old when his parents left, Francisco was an intuitive, energetic, and excitable boy. He spent hours playing in the hills and fruit orchards of Tijuana, and chasing rattlesnakes with his dogs. He also acted up a lot and often gave his aunt a hard time.
He didn’t see his parents for nearly three and a half years, and couldn’t understand why they left. He missed his mother terribly but through hard work his parents became more financially stable, and in 1978, 9-year-old Francisco joined them in Los Angeles.
At StoryCorps, Francisco—who works to strengthen relationships between the Los Angeles Police Department and the community—shares memories of his childhood in Tijuana with his 16-year-old daughter, Kaya, and tells her about the day he left Mexico to reunite with his parents in Los Angeles.
Originally aired December 16, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Above: Francisco and his younger sister Ana after arriving in Los Angeles in 1978. Photo courtesy of Francisco Ortega.
Fred Davie and Robert Sanchez
Robert Sanchez (right) is a social worker who helps people coming out of prison find work and get the support they need. He has a unique understanding of his client’s struggles because in 2001, Robert was released from New York’s Sing Sing Correctional Facility after serving 15 years for a nonviolent drug offense.
Robert has also recorded StoryCorps interviews with those who have helped him over the years, and in March 2010, his conversation with Felix Aponte was broadcast on NPR. More recently, he sat down with Fred Davie (left), a long-time mentor and friend to thank him for the spiritual support he has provided.
A Presbyterian minister who heads the Union Theological Seminary, Fred met Robert in 1998 when he was visiting Sing Sing and Robert was working towards his master’s degree in theology. They struck up a conversation and made an instant connection, and after Robert’s release, Fred helped him navigate the difficult process of finding work, interpersonal relationships, and fatherhood.
They have both remained outspoken about the importance of providing guidance and support to individuals following their incarceration, and together they developed the Ready4Work reentry program which provides mentoring and job counseling to former prisoners to help with their transition and avoid returning to prison.
At StoryCorps Robert and Fred remember their first meeting, and discuss how their relationship has grown since.
Originally aired December 2, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Alicia Beltrán-Castañeda and Serena Castañeda
Alicia Beltrán-Castañeda grew up in Salinas, California, in the late 1960s. Her mother, Beatriz Béltran, was an immigrant from Mexico, and her father, Manuel, worked both as a foreman at a food packing plant and as an overseer of migrant farm workers.
Their family of seven lived in a small trailer, but by working multiple jobs, Manuel was able to save enough money to buy a plot of land on which he built a house. Alicia vividly recalls sitting on a 1950s metal stool in their living room, watching her father paint some of the walls goldenrod, and others Pepto-Bismol pink.
Manuel died when Alicia was 13, leaving their mother to raise the children alone.
Beatriz began working for the Salinas City Elementary School District as a bilingual liaison for Spanish-speaking families and the administration, and later became a coordinator for migrant worker families. Through her job, she saw the poverty many migrant families lived in.
Alicia was not as familiar with the lives of migrant farmworkers until she came home one day to find that her bed was missing—she was furious. With all of her older siblings away at college, Alicia had finally gotten her own room, and she loved her bed, which had a pink cover and lace dust ruffle. When she confronted her mother, Beatriz explained that she had given the bed to a family that had recently arrived in California from Mexico, and Alicia remembers telling her mother that she did not understanding why that was her problem. Without explanation, Beatriz told her to fill shopping bags with canned food from their pantry.
Together they drove to a house where Alicia’s bed now was, a one-room shack with a dirt floor like the ones occupied by so many other migrant worker families. There they met a woman who was laying on Alicia’s bed with her newborn baby surrounded by her four other children.
At StoryCorps, Alicia told her own daughter, Serena, 13, how meaningful that experience was for her.
Originally aired November 18, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Photo of Beatriz Beltrán courtesy of Alicia Beltrán-Castañeda.
Lou Olivera and Joe Serna
In 2013, Green Beret Sergeant Joe Serna retired from the Army after more than 18 years of service that included three tours of duty in Afghanistan and numerous awards including two Purple Hearts. Returning to North Carolina to be with his wife and children, he found adjusting to civilian life difficult.
In 2014, following a DWI arrest, Joe’s case was assigned to the Cumberland County Veterans Treatment Court. After a probation violation, District Court Judge Lou Olivera (above left), an Army veteran who served during the Gulf War, sentenced Joe to a night in jail.
Joe was with three other soldiers in Afghanistan in 2008 when their armored truck flipped over and landed in a river. It quickly filled with water and Joe was the only survivor. Knowing Joe’s history and how difficult it would be for him to spend an evening confined, Judge Olivera decided to spend the night with Joe in his jail cell.
At StoryCorps, they reflect upon the night they spent together, the difficult memories that being sentenced brought back, and the relationship they have formed since.
Originally aired October 14, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Above photo courtesy of Joe Serna.
William Chambers and Ceceley Chambers
William Chambers’ mother, Ceceley, is an interfaith chaplain who has provided spiritual support to seniors and hospice patients suffering from memory loss and dementia. Her work involves talking with people about their faith, listening to their stories, and praying with them — sometimes up to ten times a day.
Last year William, 9, went to work with his mother while she was visiting with residents of the Boston-area Hebrew Rehabilitation Center. Ceceley knew that many of the residents liked having children around, and they were thrilled to have William there.
At first William was afraid to go to the center, but his experience there left him pleasantly surprised. Among the residents he spent time with was a woman with end-stage Alzheimer’s disease who carried a baby doll with her that she treated like a real child. This didn’t faze William who told his mother, “I think people are free to think whatever they want to think.”
Since his initial visit, William has returned to work with his mother several more times. While Ceceley finds it difficult to say goodbye to the residents at the end of the day, they have taught her the “importance of being present, and the beauty of just little small moments.” William says that his time going to work with his mother has changed how he sees things as well: “They made me think, you should enjoy life as much as you can cause it doesn’t happen forever.”
They came to StoryCorps to discuss the affect Ceceley’s work has had on them both.
[Of the many residents Ceceley has counseled, she felt particularly connected to one man who would sing her love songs and tell her dirty jokes. Listen below to hear one of the love songs.]
Originally aired September 2, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Above photo of William and Ceceley courtesy of Ceceley Chambers.
Carlos Walton and Jim Saint Germain
Jim Saint Germain’s family moved to New York City from Haiti in 2000. They left with the hope of having a better life than the one they left behind, but for 10-year-old Jim, the adjustment was difficult.
His family moved into a small Brooklyn apartment where the quarters were so tight that Jim was forced to sleep in a closet, and at one point, 15 people were living in the home at once. By the time he was in eighth grade, Jim’s behavior had worsened and he was struggling in school. He was frequently in fights and his teachers began singling him out as a troublemaker.
Around that time, Carlos Walton, then the dean of Jim’s middle school, stepped in.
Carlos was known as an educator with the rare ability to connect with harder-to-reach kids. He had grown up in a tough Brooklyn neighborhood and used straight talk, a firm handshake, and big hugs to reach students.
Carlos saw himself in Jim and when Jim got kicked out of his apartment, Carlos took him into his own home to help give him time to figure things out. And while their relationship has had its moments, Jim is currently studying for his master’s degree at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and this past weekend he served as a groomsman at Carlos’ wedding.
Jim (above right) and Carlos (above left) came to StoryCorps to remember some of the pivotal moments in their relationship.
Originally aired July 22, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Above: Jim and Carlos together on the night before Carlos’ wedding. Photo courtesy of Jim Saint Germain.
Anthony Merkerson and Charles Jones
Charles Jones was already a father to three daughters when he found out his fourth child was going to be a boy. He was so excited by the news that even before Malik was born, Charles began plotting ways he would get the new baby into playing and loving sports—the same way his own father had done with him—even joking to others that he had already bought him New York Knicks season tickets.
When Malik was two and a half years old, he was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Like many parents of children on the autistic spectrum, Charles and his wife struggled to adjust to their son’s unexpected needs, but over time, they worked together to better understand autism and Malik. Early on, Charles feared his son would be non-verbal, unable to even speak his own name or say, “I love you,” but eventually Malik, now 12 (pictured with his father at left), began talking, and according to his father, once he did, “He wouldn’t shut up.”
Charles decided to start a support group for fathers like himself to provide a space for them to feel safe sharing their feelings. Five years ago, at a New York Mets game on Autism Awareness Day, Charles met Anthony Merkerson. Anthony has two children—Elijah, 10, and Amaya, 8 (pictured with his family at left)—who are both on the autistic spectrum. After meeting Charles, Anthony joined the support group and they have since become close friends.
Charles (above right), a filmmaker, came to StoryCorps with Anthony (above left), a New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority police officer, to talk about what they have learned from one another, and the concerns they have for their sons as young black men growing up in a society where they are at constant risk of being targeted and misunderstood because they are autistic.
Originally aired July 15, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Photo of Charles and Malik Jones courtesy of the Jones family.
Photo of Evelyn, Anthony, Elijah, and Amaya Merkerson courtesy of the Merkerson family.
Max Voelz and Mary Dague
Army Sgt. 1st Class Max Voelz and his wife, Staff Sgt. Kim Voelz, worked in Explosive Ordnance Disposal—the Army’s elite bomb squad. Both Max and Kim were sent to Iraq in 2003. One night, Max called in the location of an explosive and Kim was sent to disarm it. She did not survive the mission. In 2011, Max came to StoryCorps to remember her. Click here to listen to his remembrance.
At one of Max’s lowest points, he turned to another bomb tech, Sgt. Mary Dague, who lost both of her arms during an IED disposal in Iraq (pictured at left in one of her favorite t-shirts). Max and Mary (pictured together above) came to StoryCorps to talk about coping with loss.
Web Extra: After Max’s story was broadcast, NPR listener Leslie Holot (pictured at left) reached out to him on Facebook. The two fell in love and got engaged. They came to StoryCorps in 2014 to talk about their relationship.
Originally aired November 7, 2014, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Alice Mitchell and Ibukun Owolabi
Growing up, Alice Mitchell was always very close with her mother Rosemary Owolabi. A Nigerian immigrant as proud of her heritage as she was of her children, Rosemary would pick Alice up from school dressed in vibrantly colored garments and head-wraps.
When Alice was 14, her mother died unexpectedly from cardiac arrest just two weeks after giving birth to her youngest child, a boy she named Ibukunoluwa, which translates to “Blessing from God.”
Alice was immediately forced to become both sister and mother to her new brother, who they call Ibukun, and took the lead in raising him the way she believed her mother would have wanted him brought up.
Now 10 years old, Ibukun lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with his father and stepmother. Over the years he has seen pictures and heard stories about his mother, but came to StoryCorps with Alice (pictured together in the player above) to talk for the first time about losing their mother.
Originally aired July 1, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.