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.
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.
Duery Felton and Rick Weidman
Every day since it officially opened in November 1982, visitors to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. have left tributes to those whose names are engraved on The Wall: medals, dog tags, clothing, and other objects they associate with friends, loved ones, and fellow service members.
The Memorial Wall is under the supervision of the National Park Service, and when Duery Felton learned that park rangers were collecting and storing this huge collection of items, he became a volunteer in order to see them for himself. Eventually he was offered a full-time position as the first curator of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Collection, a job he held for 28 years before retiring in 2014.
Duery, who served in Vietnam, came to StoryCorps with his friend and fellow war veteran, Rick Weidman (pictured together above), to discuss what drew him to the wall, and to talk about his service during the Vietnam War.
Click here to view a gallery of some of the more than 400,000 items left by visitors to The Wall.
Originally aired November 12, 2016, on NPR’s Weekend Edition.
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.
Idella Hansen and Sandi Talbott
Idella Hansen started driving big rig trucks in 1968 when she was just 18 years old. At the time, she was pregnant and hungry for independence so she filled a tanker with gasoline, took to the road, and to this day has not looked back. Now 66 years old, Idella has been driving for more than four decades, and her best friend is fellow trucker Sandi Talbott.
Sandi, 75, began driving alongside her husband, Jim, in 1979. They drove as partners for years until Jim’s health began to decline and Sandi took over most of the driving. After Jim’s death in 2000, Sandi continued on the road without him, and has now been behind the wheel for over three decades.
Together, Idella (top left) and Sandi (top right) have driven over 9 million miles hauling everything from missiles to tadpoles. At StoryCorps they discuss their friendship, their adventures, and why they’ll never retire.
Originally aired September 23, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Photo of Idella in 1996 courtesy of Idella Hansen.
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.
Martha Hiatt and Hans Walters
As far back as he can recall Hans Walters loved sharks. As a child growing up just outside of New Orleans, Louisiana, in the 1970s, he would spend hours flipping through the encyclopedia memorizing details about the many different types of sharks.
Hans’ love of sharks led him to attend college in Florida at the University of Miami where he earned his degree in Marine Biology, but that career was put on hold when, in 1982, he became the lead singer of the Miami-based metal band ZToyz (pictured at left).
Hans spent the next nine years fronting ZToyz as they opened for huge stars like Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, the Ramones, and Humble Pie. The video for their song, “Miami Breakdown,” played on MTV, and Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider covered one of their songs on a solo album.
In the early 1990s, ZToyz broke up and Hans decided it was time to do something new with his life. Putting his degree to use, he applied for a job at the Wildlife Conservation Society, and his love for sharks was rekindled. He went on to earn his Masters degree in Marine Biology and is now a shark researcher and supervisor at the New York Aquarium on Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York (pictured below).
But Hans hasn’t left rock and roll entirely behind, before he arrived at the aquarium, the sharks were given names like Sand Tiger Shark 1, Sand Tiger Shark 2, and Sand Tiger Shark 3. Hans started referring to them as “dirty stinkin’ rock and rollers,” and these days they’re named a bit differently. Visitors now spend time with Axl, Duff, and the rest of Guns N’ Roses as well as Janis Joplin and members of AC/DC and Bad Company.
Years ago, hanging out on the Coney Island boardwalk with Dee Snider, Dee told him he always admired that Hans had a backup plan if his career in music didn’t work out. Hans’ response: “Music was the backup plan. Marine biology was the original plan.”
The New York Aquarium is also where Hans met animal behaviorist Martha Hiatt, now his wife (pictured in the player above with Bruiser the Sea Lion). They came to StoryCorps to talk about his unusual career trajectory and how much of his life was actually motivated by his love of sharks.
Originally aired June 10, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Photo of Hans performing with ZToyz courtesy of Hans Walters.
Photo of Hans in the field courtesy of Julie Larsen Maher © WCS.
Roy Wilkins and Keith Melick
Roy was seriously injured in the blast, but was pulled from his Humvee and survived.
Ten years later, Roy was at a VA medical center gym when he heard a familiar voice—one he recognized from the day of the explosion. The voice belonged to Keith, the medic who’d pulled him from the wreckage. That chance reunion marked the beginning of a deep friendship.
At StoryCorps, Roy and Keith talk about their memories of both encounters.
Originally aired November 29, 2014, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.
Clarence “Clancy” Haskett and Jerry Collier
This past weekend marked the official opening of the 2016 Major League Baseball season. And while the games now count in the standings, it won’t be until the weather warms up that the competition on the field will really heat up. But in the stands, there is a battle taking place that won’t wait until summer: the fight to be top vendor.
As anyone who has ever been to a baseball game knows, vendors roam the stands offering anything from hot dogs and peanuts, to scorecards and foam fingers. They are in a head-to-head competition with each other to sell the most of whatever product they are assigned, and one of the all-time greats is a man known as “Fancy Clancy.”
As a teenager, Clarence Haskett (pictured at left) began selling soda at Baltimore Orioles games back when they played their home games at Memorial Stadium (the team moved to their current home, Camden Yards, in 1992). Over the years, he worked his way up to the vendor’s most prized offering—beer.
During his 43-year long career, Clancy has used his quickness and his gift of gab to sell more than a million beers to baseball fans—a number we believe makes him Hall of Fame worthy.
Clancy came to StoryCorps with his friend and former coworker, Jerry Collier (pictured together at left), to talk about their work and how he got started.
Clancy’s story is one of 53 work stories featured in our new book, Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work.
Click here to pre-order Callings before April 19, 2016, and get great gifts from StoryCorps.
Originally aired April 8, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Photo of Clancy pouring beer courtesy of the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Sports Legends Museums.
Jeanne Abel and Alan Abel
In the 1964 presidential election, Republican Senator Barry Goldwater from Arizona ran against Democratic incumbent Lyndon Johnson who had assumed office following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. LBJ won in a landslide, but there was another candidate in the race who has largely been forgotten by history: Mrs. Yetta Bronstein, a Jewish housewife from the Bronx.
One reason Mrs. Bronstein remains absent from the history books is that although she ran, she didn’t actually exist. She was the creation of professional media pranksters Alan and Jeanne Abel. The husband and wife team cooked up Yetta while doing a nightclub act, and decided she should run for the highest office in the land. Registering her as a write-in candidate, she was listed as a member of the Best Party, with a platform that included national bingo and lowering the voting age to 18 so that juvenile delinquents would have something to do (the 26th Amendment was ratified 1971).
Jeanne, a gifted improviser, posed as Yetta, promising voters 16 ounces in every pound and offering free hot dogs and bagels in exchange for votes. She only gave reporters radio interviews because unlike Jeanne who was in her 20s, Yetta was the middle-aged wife of a New York City cab driver. At one point during the campaign, she wrote to President Johnson offering to end her run if he would name her as his running mate (Click here to read Yetta’s letter). Alan, her campaign manager, perpetuated the ruse by using a photo of his own Jewish mother in their election materials.
The Yetta Bronstein hoax is just one of scores of pranks the Abels orchestrated over the past 60 years. The one they are best known for is attempting to advance the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals (SINA), which aimed, in the name of morality, to put pants on the world’s creatures. SINA’s slogan was, “A nude horse is a rude horse.”
Proving that no prank can go too far, Alan once even faked his own death, leading to a January 2, 1980, obituary in The New York Times. Two days later, for the first time in their history, the newspaper of record ran a retraction of an obituary explaining, “An obituary in The New York Times on Wednesday reported incorrectly that Alan Abel was dead. Mr. Abel held a news conference yesterday…”
The audio for this story includes archival recordings of live radio appearances Jeanne made during the 1964 and 1968 presidential campaigns when Yetta ran a second time for president. In between her runs at the White House, Yetta also ran for mayor of New York City, a seat in Britain’s parliament, and wrote a book, The President I Almost Was by Yetta Bronstein. Years later, their daughter, Jenny Abel, produced and directed a film about her father titled “Able Raises Cain.”
Asked if they’d consider running Yetta against the current field of presidential hopefuls, Jeanne responded, “The comedy is already happening.”
Jeanne and Alan sat down for StoryCorps in their rural Connecticut home. Surrounded by countless boxes filled with documentation of their life’s work, they tell the true story behind their fake candidate.
Click here for more information on the Abel’s hoaxes.
Originally aired April 1, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.