The Hull Living Treasures Project, created by resident Anne Cruse, gives interested senior citizens an opportunity to record their life stories and fondest memories for their own enjoyment and to preserve them for future generations.
Cruse, who came up with the idea during the pandemic when she has had quite a bit of spare time on her hands, poses to older citizens who choose to participate a series of questions about their lives as a guideline to help them frame their stories.
“This is a great way to reflect on, and pass along, one’s life journey and experiences,” she explains.
The seniors consider and respond to questions such as: Where did you grow up? How many siblings do you have? Where are your parents from? What would you like to be remembered for? Participants can choose to either write out the answers to some or all of the questions, even adding their own, or share them with Cruse during a telephone conversation.
From notes she takes during her conversations with seniors, Cruse crafts a story of their life, complete with the joys and challenges. They then have a chance to review the end result.
Cruse makes any suggested changes, adds photos if desired, prints out a copy, and places it in a binder for safekeeping.
“The finished product is presented to the senior and shared with his or her family and community if that is their wish,” Cruse says. Extra copies are available on request.
After engaging in a similar process with her 99-year-old mother, Yvonne Fairchild, Cruse thought about how rewarding it might be to share the idea with Hull’s seniors “at a time when people are stuck at home. We had so much fun doing it.”
Cruse presented her proposal to Senior Center outreach coordinator Rachel Gerold and Wellspring’s director of elder services, Margaret Mellon. “We brainstormed and talked it through, and they suggested a few people to start with about a month and a half ago,” she says. “We believe that everyone’s story is a treasure.”
Cruse, who majored in English and art in college and then built a 40-year career in nursing, says she still loves to write, so this project provides her with the perfect opportunity to apply that talent.
Ann Kelleher, 90, is one of the first seniors to tell her story to Cruse. “This is such an exciting idea. Sharing my story brought back memories that I hadn’t thought about for some time,” she says. “It would be difficult to pick my favorite one because each part of my life has been a good time.”
Among Kelleher’s childhood recollections is summering in Hull with her family, who lived in Brookline, in a beach cottage on R Street that is no longer there. Many years later, she and her husband, Bernie, moved to Hull after having lived for many years in Panama where they both worked.
“I loved Hull as a child and wished I could live there all year long and not just during the summer,” Kelleher recalls. Now, after living in the town for 30 years, she still enjoys the “hometown feel.”
Kelleher’s friends and family are looking forward to reading her story. “I commend Anne for being able to consolidate 90 years of my life into seven pages,” she says.
Cruse is not sure where the name “Living Treasures” came from. “I think I heard it somewhere,” she notes, “but it seemed like a good fit.”
The project is just in the beginning stages, and she is hoping that many more Hull seniors will agree to give voice to their memories. “I think it’s important for our townspeople’s stories to be shared while they are still with us so that they can get pleasure from their memories as they reminisce,” Cruse says. “It gives them a chance to think about what they have done with their lives and then to share important milestones and memories that perhaps their family doesn’t know about.”
Seniors who wish to participate or who have questions, or other members of the community who know of someone who might like to share their story, can call the Senior Center at 781-925-1239, ext. 6.