In this 12-part series, we’ll be showing you how we created a legacy for our late Uncle Al using his stories, and how you might approach doing the same with a loved one in your family.
Al Long was known for his World War 2 and Ford Motors Stories. If you sat with him long enough, you were bound to hear a few (whether you wanted to or not). But they were good stories, and Al loved to tell them. He remembered the voyage across the Atlantic on the Queen Mary, packed with soldiers and serving terrible food. He’d tell you about tricking his commanding officer into giving him the day to go to Brussels if he could finish digging the latrine by noon—which he successfully did by getting the Engineering Corps to do it for him with a digger. After the War, Al could tell you all about his days keeping the machines running at an Indianapolis Ford factory and painting the shoes of a worker a different color every day while the worker slept on the job.
Al would have been about 90 when I first met him seven years ago. He was my fiancé’s great-uncle, and everyone called him Uncle Al. At 95, Al was still going to the gym every day and walking without assistance. Although he was healthy, news of WW2 Vets dying every day reinforced how lucky we were that Al was still here. And my husband’s Aunt Jan had the good sense to record Al telling his WW2 stories. She asked for my help to set up the camera and recording. At the time, I was between careers, training to become a transcriptionist, and searching for a career that would allow me to use my skills to really help people and give back in a big way. My company, The Memory Collective, didn’t exist yet. It wasn’t even an idea. I had little background in setting up cameras and lighting, so helping Aunt Jan set up this video for Uncle Al’s stories came naturally. As we sat around the living room listening to Al tell his stories, laughing and gaping and imagining the things he’d done and seen and lived through, we had no idea Al would be gone before his 97th birthday in 2021. We just knew that these stories were important. They were important to Al and the Greatest Generation, to Aunt Jan’s generation, to our generation, and to the future generations of our family. We knew these videos would give everyone the opportunity to properly honor, remember, and know this great American war hero, even after he was gone. We knew these stories would become his legacy.
Stay tuned for Part 2, where we’ll tell you about the evolution and adaptation of modern oral storytelling.