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In the summer of 2022, Minot-Sleeper Library in Bristol, New Hampshire partnered with StoryCorps to record and preserve stories of local residents. NHPR is honored to broadcast some of these conversations, which will be archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

StoryCorps N.H.: 30 years of friendship started in a Bristol classroom

Debbie Doe first met Andrew Harmon nearly 30 years ago when Andrew began losing his vison.
Sleeper Minot Library
Debbie Doe first met Andrew Harmon nearly 30 years ago when Andrew began losing his vison.

The following transcription is a conversation between Debbie Doe and Andrew Harmon who first met nearly 30 years ago when she was a teacher, and he an elementary school student.

Debbie Doe: How long have we known each other, Andrew?

Andrew Harmon: I honestly don't think I can remember when we were first introduced. It's been so long ago.

Doe: Well, when you were in elementary school, you found out that you were going to lose your vision when you got older. Yeah, And that's why we know each other.

Harmon: Yeah, you were. You were my teacher. You taught me about Braille. And then when my eyesight started going downhill enough-- I couldn't really read without really squinting at the large print you taught me in Braille, especially since I was a voracious reader.

Doe: Well, I remember when you were little because I would see you—not to teach you Braille, but we would, you know— like meet a couple of times a month or maybe once a week when it got closer to…the time. And you would tell me what you were reading. And I was so impressed. And I always think some people are born readers, and you are a born reader.

Do you remember being told that you were going to lose your vision?

Harmon: Yeah.

Doe: What was your reaction?

Harmon: I said something, but I don't remember the words. I just remember the emotion. It was somewhere between cataclysmic dread and just utter denial.

Doe: What I remember from when you were losing your vision was you being with your mom, and your mom being upset-- and you kind of being there with your shoulders around her and saying, ‘It's okay, Mom’.

Do you remember that?

Harmon: A little bit. Because she was even more upset than I was. She thought it was going to be like the end of me being able to read or anything, but she's even more stubborn than I am.

Doe: And do you feel like it was the end of all the things you wanted to do or were able to do?

Harmon: I was really into murder mysteries and mystery stories, so I wanted to be either a detective or a policeman, or something like that. I don't remember exactly. And I just remember thinking at some point over the years, there's no way I could do that if I didn't have the sight to be able to catch all the details and everything.

Doe: Andrew, We could have had our own detective agency! I wanted to be Sherlock Holmes. You never told me! [laughing]

Harmon: You had this great practice of making your older students work with your younger students, at least a little bit every year. And I really enjoyed it. So any opportunity I got to help pay it forward, because you definitely were a large part of me turning out as ...adequately as I have, I'll put it that way. [laughing]

Doe: What's our relationship now?

Harmon: Friends.

Doe: Friends.

Harmon: Yeah. And it's hard to really put a title on it, honestly.

Doe: Still friends, after all these years.

Harmon: Yeah. I haven't driven you off yet.

Doe: No. And thank you for being my friend and my student.

Harmon: Thank you for being my friend and my teacher.


Andrew Harmon continues to work with Debbie and her students, as well as for a tech company in Montreal. This conversation was recorded as a partnership between Minot Sleeper library in Bristol, NH and StoryCorps.

Before becoming Program Director, Quirk served as NHPR's production manager. During that time she's voiced and crafted the 'sound of the station,' coordinated countless on-air fundraisers, produced segments for Give Back NH, Something Wild, New Hampshire Calling, and developed NHPR's own NHPR Music vertical with features such as Live from Studio D, and long-loved favorites like Holidays By Request.

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