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Joe audrey pop virginia 1949For some people, spending time with family during the holidays does not warm the cockles of their hearts.  There are arguments, disputes, old resentments resurface, lives are judged and criticized, etc.  There is a way, however, to ease the emotional pain of the holiday season. 

Who, in your family, is sincerely cherished by all; someone who is truly respected and held in high regard?  Consider giving a tribute to him or her this holiday season.  A tribute is something the entire family can be involved in, both separately and together. 

When I am hired to put together a personal history, every single person in the family – even the ones who aren’t speaking to anyone – happily donate their time for an interview, because they want to preserve that relative’s memory.  They actually move beyond their issues with the family, and focus on the much loved relative.  When the book is complete, relatives read about the special memories others have – some unique, some shared – about the same individual, and the fondness they once had for each other rises up above the old grudges and disputes.  A healing begins to grow, working its way through each branch and leaf on the family tree.

You have the ability to create a powerful gifted family legacy for future generations.

It begins with one.

Whose life story could you preserve that would reconnect your family?

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Lake Julie

“Hello?” I answered my work phone.

“This is the last time I’m going to read this to you,” was the responsive greeting  I immediately recognized my father’s voice. “’I will not eat it in a box, I will not eat it with a fox. I will not
eat green eggs and ham. I will not eat it, Sam I Am.’”

“Oka-a-y,” I responded, glancing around the busy law office, wondering where this was going.

“Dr. Seuss recently died,” he said, “and I’m reading a column in today’s San Francisco Chronicle paying tribute to him.  I was thinking about how many times I had to read his books to you over and over again.  So, I’m just letting you know, that this is the last time I’m reading this to you.”

Laughing, I said, “Well, thanks for lobbing me one more read.”

His jobs over the years ran the gamut from disc jockey to TV announcer to trial attorney to ultimately retiring as Deputy Chief Counsel for the State of California. Throughout his careers he always had an audience of some sort. Don’t forget that trial lawyers play to a jury.

One of my earliest memories of my father is sitting on a riverbank with him, looking up at the night sky. I asked him, “What are stars?”

He replied, “Well, when it’s night time, God pulls down a shade. The shade has a lot of holes in it, so the sun shines through those holes.”

It made perfect sense to my three-year-old self.

A few more “highlights” of life with my father:

  • When my brothers and I were kids, he enjoyed playing Director in home movies. We couldn’t just walk up a sand dune. We had to crawl on our bellies, tongues hanging out, dying of thirst in the Sahara Desert. Too bad movie cameras didn’t have sound back then. It would be fun to hear our comments.
  • And, he would just make stuff up. For instance, my great-grandfather’s name was William Harrison. So, my dad told me that I was related to President William Henry Harrison, which I proceeded to share with all my friends, until I found out it wasn’t true. It so happens that that president served about 40 years before my great-grandfather even immigrated to this country.
  • My brothers like to tell the story of when our family camped near Mt. Lassen. Dad announced we would be hiking up the mountain, so our mother suggests we bring jackets. My father responds, “No, we don’t need them. The higher we are, the closer we’ll be to the sun, so it will be warmer.”
  • He kept the manuscript of “Pirates of Penzance” from his college acting days, and decided that he, my brothers and I were going to act out the different parts, and he would record us on the tape recorder. I can still see him coaching my brothers on the “correct” way to say “Arrgh,” as my mother rolled her eyes.

My father taught me how to use my imagination – to look at people and situations at different angles. I am grateful to him for this, because it allows me to see and understand different points of view, and to appreciate an individual’s uniqueness.

I am a biographer-personal historian. I am very good at it. I have a strong organizational skillset, but, more importantly, I was blessed with an upbringing of storytelling and a curiosity about life. Because of my father’s influence, I am able to preserve life stories for families around the world in a fun, educational and insightful manner; the benefits of which will be enjoyed generation after generation.

Thanks, Dad.

“Indiana Jones.” 


Hear the soundtrack? 


Imagine the movie without the soundtrack.


Doesn’t have the same impact, does it?


What types of music best apply to your life soundtrack?  That is, which categories would amplify and best express events that have occurred throughout your life?


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A story about my great-uncle, Bill Weybright, a glider pilot during WWII:


He was shot down over Germany, close to the French border. He “slipped wind” – he took the strings of a parachute (which was made of pure silk) and managed to float down into French territory. Soldiers are taught to either carry or bury your parachute, so the enemy won’t be apprised of your presence. He had landed in soft, farm land which had just been plowed. If he buried the parachute there, it would be turned up with the next plowing. He also realized that if he buried the silk parachute, his sisters would kill him. So, he gathered the parachute and made it as small as possible, and tucked it into his flight jacket.

A tractor approached him, pulling a wagonload of hay. The man starts talking to him, but Bill can’t speak French. The man grabs him, shoves into the hay, hiding him. He then takes Bill back to his place, gets hold of the Allies, who return him to the Allied Forces.

Unfortunately, it was just a story told to his young niece.  He never actually made it overseas.  Instead, he became a test pilot and teacher of young pilots.  As a test pilot, he had a few crashes where he, in fact, had to use his parachute. It was on one of these occasions that he sent the parachute to his niece, with the colorful story.

It was very painful for him that he wasn’t able to join in the action overseas.  He stuck with the story, as did his sister, his niece’s mother.  The truth came to light when I was putting together my family’s biography and noticed that all of the letters his sisters kept only had return addresses from the United States.  His sons confirmed my suspicions.

When piecing together life stories it’s not uncommon to discover inaccuracies, sometimes deliberate fabrications or merely faulty memories.

A good biographer is also a good detective.  It is important to love your work and to respect the individual of whose biography you are working and to understand the reasons behind the inaccuracies.

You Are A Classic

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