The Remembrance Project
Lives of those among us.
People read obituaries avidly. Alongside the famous deaths in the newspapers, there are the small print columns about the equally loved but lesser-known. Ordinary people who have lived extraordinary lives. Elissa Ely reads between the lines, finding men and women around New England whose stories should not go untold – the lives of those among us.
In 1950, Gerry Williams came upon a description in a book: a potter sitting by the road, selling his wares. He had never touched a piece of clay before, but the image of this practical craftsman, connected by his hands to earth, struck him like a shaft of light.
For over 40 years, Bruce Harrington Gould had worked seasonally on the docks with other union grain shovelers, waist deep in the holds of Lake Erie freighters.
Richard “Doc” Tacelli had been trained as an optometrist. Some of his high-school students were also his patients — and at least one, in his AP Bio class, was his daughter — and they sent their squinting parents to his evening practice.
Kenny Ward preferred to keep his past private; he may have been from St. Louis, or Milwaukee, or Philadelphia. He may have been the youngest of 11, and there were some clues that he might have been a musical prodigy.
As a science teacher, Lawrence Dorey was full of expertise, but it wasn’t limited to science. He knew how to use a bread maker to teach fractions, or how to fit animal teeth and bones into skeletons. He also knew how to throw knives and swallow flames.
When Mansooreh Saboori was 19 and living with her large family in Tehran, the military appeared at their door. They removed some literature the Shah considered communist. They also removed her father. It was a moment of crossing over.
Bob Harmon had a theory about growing up, that seven was the age disbelief begins to set in, and he transformed each child’s threshold birthday into a tableaux.
Louis Soltanoff cheerfully viewed the world as a place in need of innovation. His prototypes were always right on the cusp of spectacular patenting; the timing always seconds from success.
After more than two decades of imprisonment on false charges, Bernard Baran walked back into the world and started over. He settled down with his boyfriend, spoke in law-school classes and Innocence Project conventions, and worked as a landscaper.
Few people can be quiet and charismatic at the same time. Evy Rosenblum riveted an audience by speaking softly and focusing utterly — whether it was on a large group or a small grandchild.
Gracie James loved storytelling, and the journal writing began in second grade, even before she could spell. Her journals kept her company — more accurately, she kept herself company in them — and she filled them for the rest of her short life.
At the small bed and breakfast that Mary Stevenson and her husband ran, their kitchen table might seat a couple of tourists, a woman whose husband had threatened her with a shotgun, and a refugee family from El Salvador.
As a professional guide, Eitan Green had summitted Mount Rainier over 40 times — always learning it, always studying it. Dreams of climbing began the day he rappelled with an eight-year-old’s determination down a small cliff in Northern Maine.
The formative experience of Martin Howard’s life was the one he never, ever discussed. Once a man has survived World War II, what’s left that could distress him?
Dr. Harriet Berman was a psychologist who counseled patients with cancer, and, ultimately, a psychologist who died of cancer. But she never accepted the idea that disease was a war.
One bitterly cold Boston night, Michael Reynolds confessed to the street team doctor that his feet were bothering him. The frostbite was so severe that one foot required amputation.
Francis Tenny translated intercepted radio transmissions about enemy locations during World War II. “We sank that ship,” he’d say, recognizing a name in the news a few days later.
Madeline Barnes taught nursing theory and practice for 50 years, in schools across Massachusetts. If a student enrolled between 1960 and 2010, it’s almost certain Madeline trained her.
Carol Hiltunen was a natural introvert raised in the midst of a crowd—nine children, including sets of twins and triplets. She found escape from the chaos when she joined a convent.
James Ulwick would pull the kids from school and drive down to Cape Canaveral, so they could watch him direct rocket launches. Usually they drove with a cooler and a Coleman stove in their station wagon. Once they drove with a rocket cone.
Three weeks after her ALS diagnosis, Holly Ladd had already reviewed the prognostic literature, and, in her lawyerly fashion, constructed her advanced directive with clear limits. Over the next two years, she pushed those limits back again and again.
When she was 31, Cecilia Quiros left Colombia for the U.S. with her eight-year-old, a suitcase, and a bouquet of flowers. She treasured motherhood, but not traditional marriage.
Skip Warren was a dancer, a choreographer, a playwright, a set designer and home remodeler, an HIV survivor, a lymphoma patient, and, in two exuberant words, an artistic gypsy.
Seth Boyd, known in the hip-hop world as Cadence, surprised listeners with his gentle, pacifist raps. “I keep my eyes open so my mind doesn’t decay,” one lyric went. “I want a room with a view for the remains of the day.”
Naimy Gabour Lees was a hospital volunteer for 30 years. Unsqueamishly curious and a lover of lives, she yearned to see a baby born. The baby received a dollar on his birthday every year.
Fan Yin Lee grew up in a remote Chinese village. Decades later, in Cambridge, still fearing for his family’s safety, he would not tell his youngest son where the village was.
Gerry Dumas read broadly and deeply, and loved to transcribe meaningful quotes onto recycled envelopes. “The softest pillow is a clear conscience,” one read. “Integrity is everything.”
Father Paul Lucey came from a widely religious family. Two brothers were also priests. When his younger sister died in his later years, he conducted her funeral mass from his wheelchair.
Beatrice Singer didn’t view life as tragic—she was too practical. Her love was tangible and useable. In later years, when family visited, she made one rare roast beef and many different potato dishes, never forgetting exactly who preferred which.
Tony Winsor believed in an uncomplicated set of rights and wrongs, and, in 55 years of service, never grew discouraged when society didn’t change as rapidly as he thought it should.