Welcome Wednesday! Everyone Has A Story, Here’s How To Record Yours


by Gerry Mandel

The Life Preserver

We live in an age of unlimited communication. We can reach people instantaneously through the internet, social media, smart phones, skype. We tell them what we’re doing, where we are, what kind of pizza we had tonight, how we liked the movie or concert that ended just a couple of minutes ago. We take photos of our friends and ourselves and our dogs and send them across the coffee shop or around the world in less time than it takes to think about it. We are linked in, displayed on Facebook, tweeting the masses, uploaded and downloaded without end.

And yet, some of our most rewarding stories are untold. Many of our treasured men and women are silent, their unique journeys unrecorded. I’m talking about you, or your mom or dad. There are no second acts here. Once the curtain goes down, it doesn’t rise the following evening.

Several years ago I saw a small article in the newspaper. The U. S. Library of Congress was initiating an archive to record the testimonies of veterans, specifically World War II vets who were dying at the rate of a thousand a day. My interest in that war, plus my inherent attraction to the “older generation” and what they had witnessed during their journey through life, compelled me to do something meaningful. I volunteered for the Veterans Project and began doing video interviews with these men for the LOC archives. Most of them told me things they had never shared with their wives or children.

My reward was twofold: The knowledge that these members of “The Greatest Generation” realized they were important, that someone was interested in what they had done. Secondly, the appreciation of their families, for hearing their stories and, more importantly, holding something – in this case, DVD’s – to give to their children and grandchildren.

Ancient tribes kept their legends and legacies alive by spoken word around the fires at night. Today, we are fortunate to have the tools and technology to preserve the sight and sound of our elderly beloved ones.

That is why I started my service, now called The Life Preserver, eight years ago. Many of those men and women are still with us; others have passed on. But the stories of their lives, told as only they could tell them, are in the hands of their families. Decades from now, those families, generations removed, will still be able to hear grandpa tell how he packed all five kids in the old Buick and drove to the seashore for that wonderful vacation. Grandma will still talk about her famous strudel or lasagna and we’ll hear her laugh as she relates how the family cat knocked the dish off the counter. My clients have included a couple celebrating their 50th anniversary, a B-17 navigator who flew bombing raids in 1944, a widow who didn’t remember what she did yesterday but enjoyed clear memories of her childhood and marriage, and – just two weeks ago – a 101-year-old woman who was as graceful, interesting and capable as anyone I’ve ever had the pleasure to talk with.

The process is simple. I spend about two hours talking with them, in their home, apartment or condo. It’s a conversation, not an interview. That’s key. I keep it relaxed and informal so the real personality and stories come through. Then I edit the video, take out the awkward pauses, add titles, old photographs, and occasionally music. The final video/biography is a DVD, usually about 1 1/2 hours in length, delivered in an attractive case.

One final note. Many elderly people do not believe their lives were interesting. “Oh, nobody is interested in my life,” I’ve heard more than once. That’s why most of the calls I get are from daughter, sons, and grandchildren. The truth is, every one has an interesting story. Especially for the next generation.

If you’d like to preserve your family’s legacy, call Gerry at 314-984-5052, or email him at TheLifePreserver@gmail.com. Be sure to join in Gerry’s conversation on Facebook and follow his blogs.



2 Responses to Welcome Wednesday! Everyone Has A Story, Here’s How To Record Yours

  1. Beverly Brannan says:

    My parents were part of the “Great” generation. They never considered themselves great. They did consider themselves fortunate and “circumstancial” lucky

  2. dan harris says:

    I am interested in the history of the men who served during World War II and also the CCC because my dad and two uncles were all in Hawaii the days the bombs were dropped. Two, my dad John and his brother Joe were at Schofield Barracks and another brother, Glen was at Hickham Field. My father-in-law worked all over on many dams and projects for the CCC. From Texas, to Tennessee and New Mexico..and who knows where else. He recorded his life on tape (as he remembered it) but I have yet to listen to it. I am from a huge family…7 girls..and we all have different stories of our parents..and stories of our own. I would love your help in knowing how to preserve these memories for our children.

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