Inside a StoryCorps recording booth, everyday people can sit down to interview someone who matters to them. Almost all of these interviews touch on the great themes of human existence — and there’s no question that the greatest of these themes is love.
It’s been eleven years since I founded Storycorps, and I am still regularly astonished by the beautiful love stories that spin out of our recording booth week after week. They speak to the enduring and redemptive power of love. They brim with life lessons. They give me hope. Here are ten of my favorite Storycorps love stories that may just do the same for you.
- From topless bar to biology lab: Susan and Philip McClinton. An unlikely and amazing love story that takes place in Wyoming: Two ninth grade dropouts — a bouncer and an amateur stripper — meet in a topless bar. They fall in love and realize they have a shared passion for science, so they help each other achieve their dream of becoming biologists. In this interview, they recall meeting in the fall of the 1972. The winning pick-up line? “I am going to take you rattlesnake hunting.”
- Loss of memory brings beauty too: Gweneviere Mann and Yasir Salem. A story about love, memory loss and a marathon. Gweneviere suffered a stroke during an operation in 2008, and now lives without short-term memory. In this interview, she and her boyfriend talk about how this works — for better and worse. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Yasir and Gwen at a number of StoryCorps events and they really are as remarkable as they sound. They got married in Austin this past summer, and played this animation of their interview at the wedding.
- Double trouble: Hunny Feller + Elliot Reiken, and Bunny Feller + Danny Reiken. This is what happens when identical twin sisters meet and marry identical twin brothers. But while they had a double wedding, there is nothing interchangeable about these pairs. As Hunny says to her husband Elliot in this interview, “Thank you for being you, Elliot. You made my life complete.”
- A heartbreaking 9/11 love story: Beverly Eckert and Sean Rooney. Beverly remembers her husband, Sean, who was killed on September 11th, 2001. Shortly after recording this interview in 2009, Beverly herself was killed in a plane crash — she was flying to Buffalo to be with her family on what would have been her husband’s 58th birthday.
- A tale of two grandmas: MJ Seide and Genna Alperin. MJ and her granddaughter, Genna, have an unusual relationship: they are poker partners and like to go on rollercoasters together. In this interview, MJ describes meeting Genna’s biological grandmother for the first time and realizing instantly that she was her “soulmate.” “This is the first time that we’ve ever talked about the fact that I’m gay,” says MJ. “I guess what I wanna ask you is: Does it embarrass you to have a gay grandma?” Genna’s response is so lovely.
- Love beyond gender: Blue Bauer and Shane Fairchild. This is a broadcast from just a few weeks ago: Shane, a transgender man, remembers his wife, Blue, a transgender woman in St. Louis. RIP Blue — what a woman, what a character, what a spirit!
- Tall in his wheelchair: Colleen Kelly Starkloff and Max Starkloff. Another story from a recent broadcast: Colleen gives a moving portrait of her husband Max, who was in a car accident that left him quadriplegic in his early 20s. Colleen met him when she worked at a nursing home. “Here comes this guy into my office. Drop dead gorgeous. Max was six feet five, sat very tall in his wheelchair,” she says. “I was done. Right then and there.” As she tells their daughter, Meaghan Starkloff Breitenstein, about falling in love, Colleen says, “Your dad was a giant.”
- A Brooklyn love story: Andrea and Jay McNight. In this story, young love blossoms on a Brooklyn street corner more than a half century ago. When Jay and friends were out singing, he spotted Andrea and said: “I’m going to marry her.” His friend’s response? “You’re going to jail.” But really, how could anyone resist that voice?
- Our most beloved love story ever: Annie and Danny Perasa. Danny, a clerk in an Off Track Betting office, and Annie, a nurse, remember their life together — from their first date to Danny’s final days with terminal cancer. Watch their story in glorious technicolor.
- Six phrases for a successful relationship: Vivian and Leroy A. Morgan. Finally, a little written wisdom from our book, All There Is: Love Stories from StoryCorps. Here is what Leroy A. Morgan had to say about his late wife, Vivian: “My wife and I were in Philadelphia, and we saw a sign that said ‘SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE.’ I will never forget it: It had six points to always say to your wife or husband. The first one was: YOU LOOK GREAT. The second one was: CAN I HELP? The third one was: LET’S EAT OUT. The fourth one was: I WAS WRONG. The fifth one was: I AM SORRY. But the last and most important one was: I LOVE YOU. That was it. There were six statements, and it said if you follow that, you’ll have a successful marriage. So we followed it, and we did have a successful marriage. It lasted fifty three years, two months, and five days. It’s been rough, but every morning when I wake up she’s included in my prayers and I talk to her every night when I go to bed. She was something. One thing: If they ever let me in those pearly gates, I’m going to walk all over God’s heaven until I find that girl. And the first thing I’m going to do is ask her if she would marry me, and do it all over again.”
Dave Isay is the founder of StoryCorps, and the winner of the 2015 TED Prize. On March 17, at the TED2015 conference, watch as he shares an audacious wish on behalf of StoryCorps. This session will be livestreamed for free.