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"Everyone Has a Story to Tell. Are You Ready to Share Your Life Story?"

January 01, 2021

by Alan Blitz

It was Thanksgiving weekend 2004. A few weeks earlier, my dad, age 87, agreed it was time to record his life story on my camcorder using high eight video tape. Two hours later we were done, and the cassettes were safely stored in my office, unwatched since our recording session. 

My dad, Bill Blitz, passed away in August 2005. On the 15th anniversary of his death, it was time for me to watch the video. The memories streamed back as my dad was very animated talking about the struggles of his life during the depression, my grandparents, relatives, World War II experiences, meeting my mom, 58 years of marriage, building a thriving business and being the parent to four sons, nine grandchildren and seeing his first great-grandchild born.

What came as a pleasant surprise to my three brothers is that I produced copies of the video on USB drives and mailed one to each of them. They had no idea I produced the life story of our dad and were incredibly appreciative. 

Is it Time for You to Tell Your Life Story?

Volunteers of North Shore Senior Center are trained and ready to help you tell your story.  

You can do so using the Zoom virtual platform which enables you to have a video file of your story. Or, if preferred, your story can be audio-recorded without you being on camera.

How you wish to record your story is your decision. But you will be prepared in advance to make sure there are no surprise questions. In fact, according to Tom Sundell, a Winnetka resident and NSSC volunteer life story interviewer, “we have a very easy three-step process to prepare for the life story interview session. 

“First, there’s a telephone discussion to review the process; second, we email questions for the interview which the interviewee reviews and modifies as they wish; last, we conduct a preliminary test of Zoom to prepare for the actual interview,” Tom explained. 

“I talk with each interviewee about what they want to focus on: work, life, career, home life, etc. During the preliminary Zoom session, the interviewee gets a sense of the video recording experience and we can identify the stability of the Wi-Fi connection.”

The preparation worked great for Jim Young, a Glenview resident and NSSC volunteer, who recorded his life story recently with Tom. “When the actual interview session started, Jim was not concerned about being recorded and it was more like a conversation between us,” Tom recalled. 

Jim Young’s Life Story Experience: “I Recommend It to Anyone”

Reflecting on his life story recording session, “One of the things I wanted to talk about were the influential people in my life: my parents and sister and the experiences that formed me from an early age. 

“My dad worked for Sears Roebuck and during the 1960s he managed opening new stores in South America. We lived in Columbia for four years and Brazil for two years. Then we moved back to Chicago for my junior year at New Trier East High School.

“I had a low draft number and decided to volunteer for the Army in 1971. I spent 2 and a half years in Germany.  Going into the Army was a great transition period at age 21,” Jim reflected, “and a chance to have some rough edges knocked off and travel around Europe.” 

During Jim’s career he did customer service work over the phone. In the late 1970s he learned how to use computers and was an inside sales representative. 

Jim’s life story experience was “a chance to look back on my life and think about what things happened. “I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in leaving a legacy for their family . . . it is a really interesting experience. It was very easy. Tom helped with an outline of questions and I selected the topics I wanted to cover in the hour we ‘Zoomed’ the recording session.”

Now Jim has DVDs of his Zoom interview. It was easy to adjust to the interview. "It was comfortable and having the video now is a big plus,” he added. 

Char Padovani, Volunteer Services coordinator, who oversees the life story program, teaches an NSSC Aging Mastery Book club class/program. One of the chapters is devoted to legacy and purpose, and she aptly summarized the importance of sharing your life story:  “You’ve been in training all of your life for this moment. All your learning, experience and wisdom has led you to where you are now and prepared you for what you can still accomplish. Why not share this journey with those you love, through a life stories recording.”

NSSC Volunteers Stand Ready for Recording Your Life Story

In addition to Tom Sundell, NSSC Life Story volunteer interviewers include Mimi Hart and Peter Tyor, with Harley Rubens and Jim Ahtes serving as video and post-production editors.  

To set up your life story interview or to learn more, call 847.784.6052. The cost is $40 for Center members; $50 for non-members. Additional copies are $5.