Stu­dent sets up web­site that records peo­ple’s lives

Orlando Sentinel - - NEWS - 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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