NPR StoryCorps

When Najat Hamza, 39, was in her early teens, she fled Oromia, a regional state in Ethiopia, with her father and two older siblings during a violent conflict in the region. They eventually settled in the United States.

After nearly 20 years of living in Minnesota, Hamza came to StoryCorps in 2017 with her cousin, Muntaha Shato, to reflect on the unshakable longing for the home Hamza left behind.

Hamza vividly remembered the night, in 1998, that she suddenly had to say goodbye to the rest of her close-knit family.

Mary Mills grew up in 1960s Los Angeles as an only child. But she was never lonely — her house was always filled with kids from the neighborhood.

In February 2020, Mary and her mother, Joyce Carter Mills, came to StoryCorps to remember how Joyce fostered that kind of fun-loving environment.

Joyce, who was 89 at the time, asked her daughter how she was different from the other parents in the neighborhood.

"I wasn't thinking about the other parents, 'cause you were such a perfect parent," Mary, then 56, said.

In the late 1930s, after years on the Vaudeville circuit, Dorothy Toy debuted on Broadway with her dance partner Paul Wing — known together as famous dance duo, Toy & Wing.

Decades later, her daughter, Dorlie Fong, had hoped to bring Toy to StoryCorps to share her story, but Toy died in 2019 at age 102 before that was possible.

Recently, Fong shared memories from her childhood with StoryCorps and talked about her late mother's legacy.

As a child, while her mother was touring with the dance company, Fong would watch her performances in awe.

Although sisters Carmencristina Moreno and Rosemary Selzer were born 14 years apart, they both have vivid memories of growing up surrounded by music.

Their parents were Mexican folk music stars, known as Los Moreno, in Los Angeles between the 1930s and '50s.

The sisters, Carmencristina, now 81, and Rosemary, 67, came to StoryCorps to remember their late father, Luis M. Moreno, and the bittersweet legacy he left behind.

The year was 1971. George Ju was running a Chinese restaurant in Miami when a young woman named Angela Rivas walked in.

George, 35 at the time, was cooking for a engagement party event, where 29-year-old Rivas was a guest. He was immediately smitten — and began a campaign to win her heart.

Nearly 50 years later, husband and wife George and Angela Ju remembered those early days, during a StoryCorps conversation in 2018.

Soon after they met, George dropped by Angela's house, where she was living with her mother and grandfather.

Walid Sakaan last visited his home country of Syria in 2010. In 1966, he moved to the U.S. at the age of 21 and settled in Memphis where he raised his family.

His daughter, Magda, was in her 20s when she left Memphis for Aleppo, where her father, Walid, was born and raised.

When the Syrian civil war began 10 years ago this month, Magda headed back to the U.S. Since then, at least half a million people have been killed — although estimates vary — and over 13 million displaced.

Tariq Khamisa was a college student working as a pizza delivery driver when he was murdered in a gang-related robbery in 1995.

The person who shot Tariq was 14-year-old Tony Hicks.

Five years after the murder, Tariq's father, Azim Khamisa, went to visit Tony for the first time. Tony, who was released in 2019, was still in prison at the time.

In 1995, 14-year-old Tony Hicks got involved with a gang in Southern California. One night, as he and fellow gang members attempted to rob a pizza delivery driver, Tony shot and killed him.

That driver was Tariq Khamisa, a 20-year-old student at San Diego State University.

Tony became the youngest person in California to be charged as an adult. He served the majority of his sentence in maximum security prisons before he was released in 2019.

It was in the prison's visiting room where, a few years into his sentence, he first met Tariq's father, Azim Khamisa.

When Omar Anani first met his wife, Namira Islam Anani, he was instantly smitten. But for Namira, it took a literal wake-up call to realize that he was the one.

In a StoryCorps conversation last month, Omar, 39, and Namira, 33, shared their love story from Detroit, where he works as a restaurant owner and chef and she's a nonprofit lawyer.

After meeting on a dating app, the couple went on their first date in August 2019.

A week later, Namira asked Omar for a favor.

"I had asked you to wake me up early, and then you did," Namira said.

William Salter helped write one of America's most iconic love songs.

He collaborated with Bill Withers and Ralph MacDonald on "Just the Two of Us," performed by Grover Washington Jr. on his album Winelight in 1980.

Salter, now 84, spoke with his 25-year-old granddaughter Jada Salter for a remote StoryCorps conversation about how he first found his sound.

Jada remembered her grandfather always humming a tune on her childhood visits to his home in New Rochelle, N.Y.

This weekend marks one year since the first documented COVID-19 death in the United States.

Like so many families, siblings Jorge and Jessica Valdivia lost a loved one to a virus that has killed more than 451,000 Americans. In April, their brother Mauricio died from complications related to COVID-19. He was 52.

Jorge and Jessica, who both live in Chicago, remembered their big brother, the second oldest of the four Valdivia siblings, during a StoryCorps conversation in December.

Sisters Corina Ulloa and Brenda Ulloa Martinez grew up in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Brenda, 46, and Corina, 44, passed on their own childhood memories to Brenda's young daughters, Isabela and Camila, in an interview with StoryCorps in 2010.

Ngoc Nguyen was born in Saigon during the final years of the Vietnam War. She left school when she was in 10th grade to help support her family.

In her early 20s, she immigrated to the U.S. and continued to work.

It wasn't until age 45 that Nguyen pursued a dream she had long put on hold: She enrolled in a GED program and passed the test to earn her certification.

In 2018, she sat down to record a StoryCorps conversation from Oklahoma City with her teacher, Chris Myers, to talk about what his class meant to her.

Clara Jean Ester was a college student at Memphis State College in Tennessee when she bore witness to a series of pivotal moments in civil rights history.

As a junior, Ester joined the Memphis Sanitation Strike in 1968, alongside African American sanitation workers who were calling to demand better working conditions and higher wages.

Before Julie Andrews first sang "A Spoonful of Sugar," its songwriter found inspiration for the iconic Mary Poppins tune in an unlikely place.

The late Robert B. Sherman wrote it with his brother, Richard; many of the duo's songs are featured in classic Walt Disney films. At StoryCorps last month, Robert's son, Jeffrey, said that it was telling his father about getting the polio vaccine as a child that sparked the lyrics for the famous song.

Jeffrey, now 63, said his dad had a way with words.

Editor's note: Jasmyn Morris, who co-produced this interview, is a distant cousin to Rose Liscum. Gert Uhl is Morris' great-grandmother.

Rosella "Rose" Liscum died at 101 years old last week in Ogdensburg, N.Y., after contracting the coronavirus, following a long, full life.

Back in 2012, Liscum, 93 at the time, sat down for StoryCorps with her daughter, Marlene Watson, then 66, to reflect on some of her memorable relationships with loved ones and her own unrelenting spunk.

A Gay Veteran Remembers Serving In Silence

Dec 26, 2020

Decades before openly gay Americans were legally allowed to serve in the military, Joseph Patton, a gay man, served in silence.

Patton, who died earlier this year at 83 years old, sat down for a StoryCorps interview in 2019 to talk about a time in his life that brought him both pride and pain.

He enlisted in the Navy in 1955 at age 17, keeping his sexuality a secret for the entirety of his service.

"My dad told me going in the service would help me be a man," Patton said.

But his reasons for joining the Navy were a bit more lighthearted than that.

Since grade school, best friends Jamie Olivieri and Yennie Neal-Achigbu have been inseparable.

As 2020 comes to a close, Olivieri and Neal-Achigbu, both 37, reflected during a recent StoryCorps conversation on how their friendship has helped them, especially this year as they navigate pandemic life.

The two met in elementary school in Yonkers, N.Y., but became close friends in eighth grade. Since then, they've always had each other's backs — literally.

Sharron Frontiero was a young lieutenant in the Air Force when she first filed a lawsuit against the federal government on the basis of sex. It later came to the attention of a young Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who signed onto the case in 1972, setting up her first appearance before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Frontiero, now Sharron Cohen, was the plaintiff in Frontiero v. Richardson, in which she sought a dependent's allowance for her husband. That same benefit is owed to wives of male members of the military according to federal law.

It wasn't until this year that 90-year-old Kenneth Felts told his family that he is gay — a secret he'd kept for more than 60 years.

In July, he spoke with his daughter, Rebecca Mayes, about his first love. Having so much alone time during the coronavirus pandemic, he told her, "drug up all these memories from the past."

With the help of his family, Jorge Muñoz has spent the last 16 years cooking hot meals for day laborers looking for work on the sidewalks of Queens, N.Y.

Since he was young, Jorge has looked for ways to put food in the hands of those who needed it, as his sister, Luz, recalled in an interview for StoryCorps last week.

As the holidays approach, family is on the mind of many. For Kenneth Tan and his mother, Olivia Tan Ronquillo, memories turn to her mother, Crescenciana.

They called her Lola.

She was no stranger to making sacrifices for her family. She spent her life caring for three generations.

Lola grew up in the Philippines, and in 1982, in her 60s, she moved to San Jose, Calif., to live with Olivia – after helping to put her through years of nursing school — and help raise Kenneth and his big sister Audrey.

Heeding his own advice, Anthony Fauci and his wife, Christine Grady, will be spending Thanksgiving this year apart from their loved ones. It's the first time none of their three adult daughters will be home for the holiday.

StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative records stories from members of the U.S. military and their families.

As an Army chaplain, Maj. Ivan Arreguin has seen many overseas deployments during his military career. But earlier this year, his medical unit, along with others, were deployed to New York City during the height of the area's coronavirus pandemic.

For more than three decades, Scott Macaulay, a vacuum repairman in Melrose, Mass., has been hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for people who have nowhere else to go — a situation he found himself in after his parents' acrimonious divorce.

His tradition started in 1985, when he put an ad in the local paper, offering to cook Thanksgiving dinner for a dozen guests. Macaulay, 59, realized his family most likely wouldn't get together for Thanksgiving that year, and he doesn't like to eat alone.

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