NPR StoryCorps

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Next, were going to listen to the man behind this music.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

Twenty-five years ago at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, two men posing as police officers tricked Rick Abath — the night watchman — into letting them in.

"At the time of the robbery I had just dropped out of Berklee College of Music. I was playing in a band, and working night shift at the museum," Abath said during a recent visit to StoryCorps with his wife, Diana. "I was just this hippie guy who wasn't hurting anything, wasn't on anybody's radar and the next day I was on everybody's radar for the largest art heist in history."

StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative records stories from members of the U.S. military who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lance Cpl. Erik Galvan, 19, was walking ahead of his squad looking for improvised explosive devices. It was 2011, and he was three months into his deployment to Afghanistan.

The group approached an ominous wooded area; Galvan felt uneasy. His squad leader, Sgt. Daniel Wheeler, was several feet behind him.

Ten years ago Kevin Berthia lived in the San Francisco Bay area. He had an infant daughter who had been born premature, and the medical costs for her care climbed to nearly $250,000. He couldn't see a way out of debt.

Berthia fell into a deep depression and went to the Golden Gate Bridge.

"Before March 11, 2005, I never even went to the bridge," the 32-year-old said during a recent visit to StoryCorps. "I didn't even know how to get there. I had to ask for directions."

California Highway Patrol Officer Kevin Briggs was there that day, too.

Noah McQueen is part of "My Brother's Keeper," a White House program aimed at young men of color.

His teen years have been rough, and include several arrests and a short period of incarceration. But last week, he was at the White House. The 18-year-old sat down for a StoryCorps interview with President Obama, who wanted to know more about Noah's life.

Wil Smith, a single dad whom listeners first met through StoryCorps in 2012, died Sunday at the age of 46. A few years ago he was diagnosed with colon cancer.

Smith attended Bowdoin College in Maine in the 1990s. When he enrolled, he was not just older than the other students, but was also raising his infant daughter, Olivia, on his own.

In the 1960s in California, the state wanted children to be adopted into two-parent homes. But officials were having trouble placing hundreds of children, especially older boys.

Bill Jones, a gay man living in San Francisco, had always wanted to be a father. He decided to apply.

"They were looking for somebody with family in the area and I had family in the area," Jones told his friend Stu Maddux, on a recent visit to StoryCorps. "They were looking for somebody that had some contact with children. I had been a schoolteacher for six years."

Yusor Abu-Salha was one of the young students killed in Tuesday's shooting in Chapel Hill, N.C.

She and her former third-grade teacher, Mussarut Jabeen, spoke to StoryCorps in May. In fact, all three victims in the shooting — Abu-Salha, 21, her husband, Deah Barakat, 23, and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha, 19 — attended the Al-Iman School in Raleigh, N.C., where Jabeen taught.

Jabeen returned to StoryCorps Wednesday to talk about that 2014 conversation with Abu-Salha.

Ten years ago, Sean Carter was a student at Midwestern State University majoring in business administration.

One night, he was riding in a car with a friend who had been drinking. They crashed and Carter was left in a wheelchair with a traumatic brain injury. He's been unable to walk or talk since and his mom, Jenny, has been his caretaker.

StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative records stories from those who have served since 9/11 and their loved ones.

Stefanie Pelkey, 39, is a former Army captain. Her husband, Michael, served in Iraq as an Army captain in 2003 and struggled when he returned.

"When he came back, he wasn't the same person that left. His light was gone. That's the only way I know how to say it," she says. "He just didn't joke around anymore. He had a lot of anxiety. He'd shake his legs a lot while he was sitting there talking, like, he'd tap his feet a lot.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame inducts an African-American driver for the first time Friday night.

Wendell Scott drove during the Jim Crow era, and he was the first African-American to win a race at NASCAR's elite major league level. He died in 1990.

Scott's career began in 1952, and his racing team was his family. They would travel to races together from their home in Virginia, and his sons served as his pit crew.

StoryCorps' OutLoud initiative records stories from the LGBTQ community.

Shane Fairchild's wife, Blue Bauer, was "very rough around the edges," he says: "Blue was 6-foot tall, weighed about 230 pounds, had red hair and brown eyes, had been a trucker all of her life," Fairchild tells their friend Sayer Johnson during a StoryCorps interview in St. Louis, Mo.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Colleen Kelly Starkloff was working at a nursing home when she met her future husband, Max Starkloff.

"Here comes this guy into my office," Colleen, 65, told her daughter Meaghan Starkloff Breitenstein, 34, at StoryCorps. "Drop-dead gorgeous."

Max was in a wheelchair. He was nearly killed in a car accident in his early 20s, leaving him quadriplegic. "He couldn't use his fingers or his hands, but he could get his left arm around me to hug me, and that was fine with me," Colleen said of their first encounter. "And I was smitten."

James Taylor says it was almost impossible to find a job after he was released from prison in 1999. He had been serving 7 years for weapons possession and drug charges.

But then he met Darlene Lewis. Darlene runs an organization dedicated to helping former inmates find jobs, preparing them for interviews, placing them with local businesses and advocating for them in court. She's helped thousands of men and women.

"When you first met me, you was almost in tears," Darlene says.

Six months ago, Raphael Hameed was walking with his 5-year-old son, Ish, in Colorado Springs, Colo., when they were hit by a speeding car.

Raphael was seriously injured. Ish, his only child, was killed. And while the driver is awaiting trial for vehicular homicide, her sister, Megiddëh Goldston, has formed a bond with the Hameed family. They connected after the accident, and Megiddëh visits Raphael and his wife, Heidi, to help with their day-to-day life.

Herman Travis, 55, lives in Holly Courts, a low-income housing complex in San Francisco.

Every Tuesday, Travis fills a shopping cart with groceries from a local food bank and makes home deliveries to his elderly and disabled neighbors. He started doing it in 2007 and says when he first started, people were skeptical.

"When I first started doing it. People was cautious. They didn't let me in their house, but after they got to really know me they would just be happy to see me," says Travis.

StoryCorps' OutLoud initiative records stories from the LGBTQ community.

Doug Neville and Ryan Johnson met in 1986 — shortly before Neville was diagnosed as HIV-positive.

From grade school through college, Neville never really had a lot of friends. "I was frequently bullied," he tells Johnson during a StoryCorps interview in Chicago.

This Christmas Eve people all over the world will log on to the official Santa Tracker to follow his progress through U.S. military radar. This all started in 1955, with a misprint in a Colorado Springs newspaper and a call to Col. Harry Shoup's secret hotline at the Continental Air Defense Command, now known as NORAD.

Shoup's children, Terri Van Keuren, 65, Rick Shoup, 59, and Pam Farrell, 70, recently visited StoryCorps to talk about how the tradition began.

It's been 50 years since New York City's Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opened. It was then the longest suspension bridge in the country. Its main span still holds that title.

In 1964, author Gay Talese published a book about the construction called The Bridge. Here's an excerpt:

StoryCorps' OutLoud initiative records stories from the LGBTQ community.

Kiyan Williams, 23, grew up in a rough neighborhood in Newark, N.J. During childhood, Williams felt isolated and different from other kids — something Williams' family began to notice around age 4.

"Me and my mother are at a friend's house, and Mary J. Blige is playing," Williams tells his friend Darnell Moore during a StoryCorps interview in New York City. "Mary was my girl at that moment — she knew all my life struggles."

Ruth Coker Burks was a young mother in her 20s when the AIDS epidemic hit her home state of Arkansas in the early 1980s. She took it upon herself to care for AIDS patients who were abandoned by their families, and even by medical professionals, who feared the disease.

Coker Burks, now 55, has no medical training, but she estimates that she has cared for nearly 1,000 people over the past three decades, including her friend Paul Wineland's partner.

StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative records stories from members of the U.S. military who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ten years ago, Keith Melick was a medic in the Army, and Roy Wilkins was a command sergeant major in the Army's Special Forces.

They crossed paths in Afghanistan, where Wilkins was wounded in an IED explosion.

And then this August, by chance, they met again — in the gym at a VA medical center in North Carolina, where Wilkins was playing with his wheelchair basketball team.

In 2007, Franklin Gilliard and his wife, a teacher's aide named Sherry, started their own business: a driving school. Shortly after, they were hit by the recession.

The couple worked hard to stay afloat, but despite their efforts, they found themselves drowning in past-due bills and late notices and became homeless in 2013.

"We had the car repossessors there. We had the bank knocking on the door. You just feel like you're a prisoner in your own home," says Franklin, 46.

When an assisted living home in California shut down last fall, many of its residents were left behind, with nowhere to go.

The staff at the Valley Springs Manor left when they stopped getting paid — except for cook Maurice Rowland and Miguel Alvarez, the janitor.

"There was about 16 residents left behind, and we had a conversation in the kitchen, 'What are we going to do?' " Rowland says.

"If we left, they wouldn't have nobody," the 34-year-old Alvarez says.

Their roles quickly transformed for the elderly residents, who needed round-the-clock care.

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