Open house set for Oct. 13 to honor life reflection authors

Five new authors in the “Celebrating My Life” book series underway at The Harbor will be recognized during an open house on Saturday, Oct. 13. Two of the authors, Harold Widmer and John Kuenzel, have passed away. Pictured above are Jonlee Anderson, Sylvia Bartels and Linda Gratz. Photo by Paul Downer

Preserving one’s reflections on life and memories for posterity is the focus of a writing program underway at The Harbor called “Celebrating My Life.”

As part of the project, residents gather in groups twice a month to share memories and photos, and are given assistance in compiling books of approximately 30 pages long.

The first group of three residents finished their project last spring, and a signing party for friends and family of the second group of five authors will be held next Saturday, Oct. 13 at 10 a.m. at The Harbor. Those authors are Sylvia Bartels, Linda Gratz, Jonlee Anderson, and the late Harold Widmer and the late John Kuenzel.

The project’s value can be best emphasized by the fact that two of the authors have already passed away, but their memories and reflections will still be available in the form of the books they have completed.

“I think it’s a really good idea. I wish I had something like this from my parents,” said Gratz.

“It was fun, just lots of fun,” said Anderson about the book writing process.

Bonita Heilman, community relations director at The Harbor who doubles as a Legacy Navigator for the project, said the process of putting the books together is nearly as much fun as the finished product.

“We would get together to start discussing at 2, and they would still be talking about the memories that had surfaced at dinner time,” she said.

Widmer and Kuenzel were both lifelong residents of the area, and Bartels said she enjoyed meeting with them and the other ladies.

“We had a nice group. It was a lot of fun with the two of them,” she said, referring to Widmer and Kuenzel. “They always had a wisecrack between them.”

Anderson and Bartels, both 88, also noted a generational change between their memories and those of Gratz, who is 67. While childhood games were similar, things like clothes styles and the wars that were in progress were different.

Many of the stories told at the brainstorming sessions related to horses, while others centered around changes in household amenities. The writers recalled the days of unheated upstairs bedrooms in the winter, when a glass of water left on the nightstand would be frozen solid in the morning. Another recalled a classmate wearing clothes made out of flour sacks at school.

“Some of those things back then were really fun. You didn’t always realize it at the time, but looking back you can see,” said Bartels.

A third group of writers is nearly done as well, and the goal is to get all 36 residents of The Harbor to go through the process. Anderson said she appreciated the opportunity, as well as the quality care that is available at The Harbor.

“When I came to The Harbor I thought I had died and gone to heaven,” she said. “It’s glorious.”