NPR StoryCorps

Isabel Kouyoumjian was a tough metzmama — that's Armenian for grandmother.

Long before she was a grandmother though, Kouyoumjian was born in a refugee camp after her parents left the area now known as Turkey. They left around 1915, when they were fleeing the Armenian Genocide, which killed nearly a million and a half people.

Kouyoumjian eventually immigrated to the United States and raised two generations of her family. She died last March, but Joanne Nucho, one of her granddaughters, still remembers her.

St. Patrick's Day always involves cheery faces, shamrocks, usually more than a few people dressed in green and if you're lucky, some people even dress up as leprechauns.

Jess Buzzutto was one of those of lucky leprechauns. At 5 feet tall, dressed from head to toe in green, he was known as "The Leprechaun of Yonkers." Buzzutto died in 2012 at 70 years old, but before then he explained to StoryCorps how he became a town favorite.

Chris López always knew there was something a little different about her youngest child, Gabe. Although assigned female at birth, Gabe, 9, always knew he was a boy.

Things really changed for Gabe when when he spent a weekend at a camp for transgender kids when he was 8 years-old.

Michael Ryan, 45, is a juvenile judge in Cleveland, Ohio. And like many of the kids who end up in his courtroom, he didn't have an easy childhood.

He adored his mother, he tells his son — also named Michael, 19, at StoryCorps in Cleveland, but she was addicted to heroin.

This weekend marks 75 years since President Roosevelt's executive order that sent Japanese-Americans to internment camps.

Roy Ebihara and his wife, 82-year-old Aiko, were children then, and both were held in camps with their families.

At StoryCorps, 83-year-old Roy told Aiko about what happened in his hometown of Clovis, N.M., in the weeks just before the executive order was issued.

It was June 1973.

Claudia Maraviglia was working at a bank. Bill Dewane, a bank customer, had recently suffered a serious spinal cord injury that left him partially paralyzed.

When we last heard from Philip, an Iraqi interpreter living in Minnesota, he was trying to bring his family to the U.S.

Philip came to the United States in 2013 and was living with Paul Braun, the sergeant of the company he was assigned to in Iraq. Braun and Philip spoke to StoryCorps in 2014.

"You scared me, dude," Philip says. "Your attitude in the beginning and with your Mohawk — "

You may remember Mary Johnson from a 2011 StoryCorps conversation with a man that could have easily been her enemy.

John Marboe is a Lutheran pastor who grew up admiring his local garbage collectors in Alexandria, Minn. When times were lean for his family, he decided to take on some shifts hauling trash.

At StoryCorps in Minneapolis, Marboe tells his 13-year-old daughter, Charlie, that he's been hauling trash since she was about 8.

Vernon Dahmer was a black civil rights leader in the mid-1960s, when Mississippians were still required to pay a poll tax in order to register to vote. In January 1966, the successful farmer and businessman publicly offered to pay that tax for black people who couldn't afford it.

That night his house was firebombed by the Ku Klux Klan. His wife and three of his children were at home.

When Kayla Wilson was 15, her mom — Wendy Founds — was in prison serving a three-year term for felony drug charges. When Founds was 15 she started using drugs, and at some point became addicted to methamphetamines.

"When I asked Mom how she got started she told me that after her Paw-Paw died she was just mad at the world and mad at God, and that's when she told one of her ex-boyfriends that she wanted to get high," Kayla said during a 2006 visit to StoryCorps with her grandmother, Teri Lyn Coulter-Colclasure.

When Founds got busted, she was at home, Kayla explained.

This holiday season, it's estimated that more than 45 million people will board airplanes by the time the year ends. With that many people on the move, delays and disruptions are inevitable, and with them come disgruntled passengers.

That space between happy passenger and dissatisfied passenger is where Fred Taylor Jr. worked for 15 years in customer relations with Southwest Airlines.

On Dec. 24, 1956, when Judy Charest was 3 months old, her father went to take a shower and when he came out, Judy and her mother, Marguerite Hunt, were gone.

"She had driven to the Shelby Street Bridge, and with me in her arms, she jumped 90 feet," Judy recounts for 90-year-old Harold Hogue during a recent visit to StoryCorps in Nashville, Tenn.

Harold, who worked as an engineer with the Nashville Bridge Co. at the time, was part of a group of people who ran to the river after someone spotted her mom floating in it.

As a child, Francisco Ortega lived in rural Tijuana, Mexico, 100 miles south of where he lives with his family now.

"We were so poor, but I used to say my mother kept the best dirt floors ever," he told his 16-year-old daughter, Kaya during a recent visit to StoryCorps. "They were the cleanest dirt floors in the planet.

Dr. Joseph Linsk grew up on Atlantic Avenue in the uptown section of Atlantic City, N.J., in the early 1930s. It's an area where he's spent most of his life and where he practiced medicine starting in the 1940s, specializing in cancer and blood diseases.

Now 94 years old, the former hematologist and oncologist is failing in health, as he battles Parkinson's disease. This grave illness, however, is only one part of a perennial struggle Linsk faces. For more than 80 years, he has kept a secret. And it's one about which we're kindly requesting your help.

Robert Sanchez first met Fred Davie in 1998, in a small, windowless room at Sing Sing Prison. Sanchez was there serving 15 years on a drug conviction; Davie was a Presbyterian minister, who was teaching there in a theology master's program.

It "didn't look like much of an educational setting," Sanchez laughs. He was studying toward his master's in theology, sitting there with 16 men, most of whom were serving sentences of 15 to 20 years. "But that room created magic."

Mary Ostendorf met her partner, Leslye Huff, in 1983. At that time, like so many LGBTQ people then, Mary didn't tell her family. And Huff went along with it.

"You took me to meet your mom," Huff tells Ostendorf, recalling their relationship's beginnings in a conversation with StoryCorps. "She was short like me, and pretty vivacious. She and I sat and talked and I thought the makings of a pretty good friendship was beginning."

Saboor Sahely grew up in Laghman, Afghanistan, with a large extended family.

"I vividly remember there was a lot of happiness and joy in eastern Afghanistan," Sahely, 65, tells his youngest daughter, Jessica. On a recent visit with StoryCorps, he tells her about the lessons of community he learned there.

"If there was a wedding, the entire village would show up. And you felt very welcomed to go into each other's homes, and we knew who had what for dinner every night and if we didn't like what we had for dinner, we all went to the neighbor's house."

Looking for a diversion from divisive political conversation this Thanksgiving? StoryCorps suggests using its smartphone app as part of its Great Thanksgiving Listen project.

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