Young Chicago man finds personal growth in face of family tragedy

January 31, 2014

(Photo courtesy of StoryCorps)
Stephen Marrone and Katie Lettie

For many young people, the teenage years are a time of rebellion, and Stephen Marrone was no different. But after he entered the University of Chicago, both of his parents suffered serious health problems.

Marrone came to the Chicago StoryCorps booth with his friend, Katie Lettie, to reflect on how those experiences gave him a greater appreciation of his parents and friends.

STEPHEN: About this time first year, my dad had a heart attack, I had to talk him into going to the hospital … Nobody in my dad’s family has lived past 60. Everybody died of a heart attack. So I was like, “Dad, we have to go to the hospital.” And he’s like, “No, I don’t have the money for that.” And I said, “It doesn’t matter how much it costs if you’re dead.”

Stephen said they prevailed on his Dad and got him to the hospital, where he was rushed into surgery and survived.

StoryCorps’ mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to share, record and preserve their stories. This excerpt was edited by WBEZ.

KATIE: I remember, like a few years ago, you were like really dismissive of your parents, and that’s totally changed over the past few years.

Stephen said he used to have a poor attitude toward his upbringing. As the son of a working-class family, he said he spent most of his high school years aspiring to something different. Then he experienced his dad’s heart attack and yet another family health crisis.

To hear how he grew in the face of so much personal tragedy, check out the audio above.

Lynette Kalsnes is a WBEZ reporter/producer. Follow her @lynettekalsnes.