Saving Stories

Saving Stories

Eternal Roots preserves history, one person at a time

Posted: Nov. 11, 2016

After  a family holiday gathering last year, Tom Ladegaard realized he might not have many more opportunities to hear his 96-year-old grandfather’s life story as told by Grandpa John himself. He also realized that most likely, no one might have ever even asked. “Relationships with elders tend to be one-sided,” Ladegaard says. “Focus is always looking down at the younger generations, not looking up.” He asked to tape an interview, and his grandfather happily obliged.

Saving Stories

Tom Ladegaard (right) with his grandfather John Weston

After posting a video of their chat on Facebook, Ladegaard was surprised with the reaction. Many friends commented and admitted they wished they’d done the same with their own family members. Driving home from work one day soon after, an idea struck him “like a lightning bolt,” and Eternal Roots, the business of preserving peoples’ personal histories, was born.

As an attorney who had taken depositions for 13 years, Ladegaard is a seasoned interviewer. He puts those skills to work with Eternal Roots. Following an in-person, video-recorded interview, the entire conversation is transcribed. (Clients are provided a questionnaire in advance to prepare.) In four to six weeks, he delivers a bound, hardcover book that contains the entire transcript, images, and personal photos, as well as a DVD of the interview. Although the company is still in its infancy (the Web site launched April 1 of this year), Ladegaard says he hopes to preserve as many stories as possible.

Running a startup day to day isn’t his biggest challenge. Ladegaard says the greatest hurdle is the humility of his potential subjects. “The main objection I get isn’t that people don’t have the money or aren’t interested. It’s that they don’t think their story is interesting,” he says. “It breaks my heart. Maybe someone doesn’t look at his or her life as that interesting, but I guarantee the family does. Even if they haven’t cured cancer, they’ve got a story, and they know the story of their ancestors, and they should pass that on.” He adds, “If you can provide some wisdom to your future generations, that’s where the real value comes in.”

This exposure to the legacies of others has helped Ladegaard think more about his own life and what this project means to him. “[With Eternal Roots], I’ve honored the interview subject by preserving their life and created value to the subject’s family by giving them a permanent way of connecting with their elders,” he says. “If that could be my legacy, I think that would be a good legacy to have.” 858.216.4972, eternal-roots.com     DEANNA MURPHY

Saving Stories