Orlando Sentinel

Student sets up website that records people’s lives

- By Marco Santana Staff Writer

David Sawyer says he was very close to his grandmothe­r. But it wasn’t until her funeral about two years ago that he learned she had been a nurse in World War II.

“After her passing, I recognized that I never got to know her,” he said. “She lived such an amazing life. Now I’m trying to get these stories from family members. History died in front of my eyes and there was nothing I did to try to preserve it.”

Sawyer hopes a new business he has created helps others avoid missing out on their families’ personal stories.

The 23-year-old Stetson University student from DeLand has created a website, The Story of Life, that allows users to record and share stories from their lives with family members. The website is set to launch its second version Monday and Sawyer says he has hundreds of paying customers already.

To prove the concept, Sawyer worked with a local nursing home, recording stories of World War II veterans. He says those recording sessions revealed that two of those veterans had actually been in the U.S. Navy at the same time in the same battle in the Pacific.

“I have always wanted to create and had that entreprene­ur’s bug,” he said. “My mother likes to jokingly say that I found a way to put myself more in debt while in college. But they love it.”

During the summer, The Story of Life pulled off a successful crowdfundi­ng campaign, raising more than $10,000 on Kickstarte­r to help launch the site.

Sawyer, who says he has been starting businesses since high school — although most have “failed miserably” — said family members have been generally supportive of his new venture.

“It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done,” he said. “One of the people passed away in the middle of our work with them. It was amazing to be able to take the story, compile it and pass it on to family members so they can appreciate what their family members left.”

It’s something Sawyer says he would have liked to have had when his grandmothe­r died.

“I didn’t have some magical site where I can go and learn about my grandmothe­r,” he said.

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