StoryCorps 447: Forget Me Not

In this podcast we’re highlighting stories form our Memory Loss Initiative.

These interviews give people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of memory loss the chance to get their stories on tape. It also lets family members and caretakers reflect on the impact the diagnosis has had on them.

We begin with the very first Memory Loss story we ever produced. In 2006, Priya Morganstern (above left) and Bhavani Jaroff brought their father, Ken Morganstern, to our recording booth in Grand Central Terminal. He was living with Alzheimer’s and the sisters wanted to record his memories while they still could. After Ken passed away in 2007, his daughters came back to StoryCorps to remember him.

Teresa Valko’s family has been battling Alzheimer’s disease for generations. She lives in California and her mother, Evelyn Wilson, lives in Georgia. Almost a decade ago, Evelyn began to show symptoms of memory loss, and Teresa remembers how their regular telephone conversations began to change.

Jo Ann and Bob Chew married later in life and for both of them this was a second marriage. Jo Ann, who is older than Bob, worried that one day he would have to take care of her. When they recorded this interview, Jo Ann was 82 years old just beginning to show signs of early stage Alzheimer’s.

Like the music in this episode? Support the artists:
“Twelve Diseases” by Welcome Wizard 
“A Spire” by Tape 
“Milo” by Fredrik 
“Dunes” by Podington Bear 
“Comptine d’un autre été – L’après-midi” by Yann Tiersen 

Teresa Valko

Teresa Valko’s family has been battling Alzheimer’s—a progressive disease that attacks the brain causing memory loss, the deterioration of thought and language skills, and changes in behavior—for generations.

According to Teresa, on her mother’s side of the family, there is a 100% occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease.

For many years, Teresa, who lives in California, would spend hours on the phone chatting with her mother, Evelyn Wilson (pictured above right), in Georgia (seen together below in Evelyn’s yard in 1980). But in 2007, Evelyn began to show the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

At StoryCorps, Teresa sat down with friends Lisa Farrell and Doris Barnhart to talk about her weekly telephone conversations with her mother and how they have changed over the years, as well as what she has learned about her own future health after undergoing genetic testing.

Valko4Originally aired November 13, 2015, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

NOTE: Two generations of Teresa’s family died of complications from Alzheimer’s including her aunt, uncle, grandmother, and all of her grandmother’s siblings. As of right now, none of her generation of family members have been diagnosed with the disease.
Photos courtesy of Teresa Valko.

Kirk Sharp and Ryan Sharp

Sgt. Ryan Sharp (right) served two tours in Iraq with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division.

In 2008, when he returned to the States from his last tour, things weren’t the same. He had trouble thinking straight, he felt off and was deeply depressed.

Ryan and his father, Kirk Sharp (left), sat down for a StoryCorps conversation in Lincoln, Nebraska to talk about what happened when Ryan came home.

Originally aired November 8, 2014, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.

Jon Meadows and Melissa Meadows

Army National Guard Staff Sergeant Jon Meadows has served two tours of duty, first to Iraq in 2006, then to Afghanistan in 2012.

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 11.40.09 AMOver the course of his service, he suffered multiple head injuries—which he didn’t report because he wanted to keep on serving.

Then, in an examination during his last tour, doctors found polyps in Jon’s throat. He was sent to a hospital in the States—and that’s when the brain damage was discovered.

Jon and his wife, Melissa (pictured in the player above), came to the White House for a day StoryCorps spent recording with Joining Forces, the national effort to support service members and their families, which is spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden.

In Washington, Jon told his wife about his life now, and remembered a friend and fallen soldier who served with him in Iraq.

Originally aired May 24, 2014, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.

Above: Photo of First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden courtesy of Lawrence Jackson for the White House.Staff Sergeant Jon Meadows, who suffered traumatic injuries during his last tour of duty in Afghanistan, remembers a fallen friend.

Priya Morganstern and Bhavani Jaroff Update

For our 10th anniversary, we’re revisiting some favorite stories.
Priya Morganstern (L) and her sister, Bhavani Jaroff (R), first came to StoryCorps in 2006 to interview their father, Ken Morganstern, who had Alzheimer’s disease.

Ken died in 2007. Priya and Bhavani recently came back to StoryCorps to remember him.

Originally aired October 27, 2010 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Carol Kirsch and Rebecca Posamentier

kirsch_extra1_editRebecca Posamentier (right) first came to StoryCorps in 2008 with her mother, Carol Kirsch, who had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Rebecca was hoping to record her mother’s voice and thoughts on tape before Carol ‘s condition worsened.

Carol died in March 2011, and recently, Rebecca returned to StoryCorps to remember her mother.

Originally aired May 10, 2013, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Above: Carol with her granddaughter Sophie. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Posamentier.

Jeff Ingram and Penny Ingram

Ingram3Jeff Ingram suffers from Dissociative Fugue, a rare type of amnesia. When he has an attack, his memory is wiped clean.

But each time he has to start his life over, his wife, Penny, is there to help him remember.

At StoryCorps, Penny told Jeff about the early days of their relationship.

One reason the Ingrams wanted to record with StoryCorps was to preserve Jeff’s memories — in case he loses them again.

Listen to the message Jeff recorded for himself:

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"You said, 'Well, I have a medical condition that I probably should share with you.'"
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Originally aired on December 13, 2012, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Above: Penny and Jeff got married on New Year’s Eve, 2006, after Jeff proposed to Penny twice. Photo courtesy of Penny and Jeff Ingram.

Gweneviere Mann and Yasir Salem

Gweneviere Mann lost her short-term memory following surgery to remove a brain tumor. With the support of her boyfriend, Yasir Salem, Gweneviere found she could tackle the challenges her condition threw her way—and a few more.

At StoryCorps, Gweneviere and Yasir talked about how they’ve learned to navigate life in a new way, together.

Just a few weeks after their interview—and two days after their story was broadcast— Gweneviere and Yasir ran the 2011 New York City Marathon. They took a photo at the finish line, at left.

Click here to watch “Marking the Distance,” a StoryCorps animation of Gweneviere and Yasir’s story.

Originally aired November 4, 2011, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Robert Patterson and his wife Karen

Florence Newman and her daughter Audrey

Audrey Newman (R) talks with her mother, Florence (L) who has Alzheimer’s, about her father, Joe Newman.

When you give, you help us record, share and preserve these voices for generations to come.

Each week, the StoryCorps podcast shares these unscripted conversations, revealing the wisdom, courage, and poetry in the words of people you might not notice walking down the street.