I’ve mentioned several times the oral histories I have been recording at Otterbein Homes. Today, you can listen to one that had a big impact on me.
Gertrude Bloede was 99 when I interviewed her in September. She passed away November 1st. Gertrude spent 30 years in the mission field in Africa and Red Bird Mission in Kentucky, serving as a midwife and nurse. Gertrude was sharp as a tack, and I was blown away at how she could remember and pronounce names of people she met and served in Africa 50 years ago. Her laughter was contagious, and passion filled her voice.
You can listen to Gertrude’s story in Sound/Otterbein Stories.
The profoundness of what we do
As a journalist, a documentary photographer, and independent producer, I relish in helping others tell their stories. That takes many forms and methods.
For the past couple of months, I’ve been recording oral histories for a customer, Otterbein, a retirement community that does much more. My subjects have been men and women who have volunteered to tell the stories of their lives. Of course, there are plans for these materials to show the “Spirit of Otterbein,” the people who live and work at an incredible organization at nine locations in the state of Ohio.
The very first interview was Gertrude Bloede. I never met a woman with such a sharp mind. She could rattle off details and names of individuals in Africa like it was yesterday rather than the actual 60 years ago. She was a joy. Her stories were profound and entertaining. And, her laughter was music to the ears.
When I learned of her passing, I was working on the project with my customer and playing the portion of video that was her interview, when they said, “You know, Gertrude passed away last week.” I was very moved … and for a couple of reasons. I had hoped to go back and visit Gertrude to show her what we did. I speak about Gertrude when I tell others about this project and how important it is to do oral histories. All of a sudden, this interview, Gertrude’s interview took on a new meaning.
Her passing is a reminder to me why I do this. I help others tell their stories. I am fairly confident that I am the last person to record a conversation with Gertrude. Oh sure, she talked with plenty of other individuals, but I recorded ours. It is preserved for as long as the digital media can be saved. I sent the family an audio CD of the full interview for their family history, and of course a copy of the photo.
Every now and then, an event, a transition in the circle of life gives credence to what we do. Rest in peace, Gertrude, and thank you for what you taught me in our short time together and the preservation of that moment in time. I have been blessed in meeting you.