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For Rolland Love, we are each a story

Rolland Love and Mark Andresen
Rolland Love (left) and Mark Andresen are urging children to help write their elders' life stories. Imastory.com

Rolland Love—author, actor, and storyteller—has embarked on a new project he believes will narrow the communication gap between young and old.

Love and his business partner, Mark Andresen, an area software developer, have created a Web site where older adults can write their life stories. Love estimates that there are 40 million persons over age 65, most of whom have never recorded their life. He likes to cite his favorite Mark Twain quote, "There has never yet been an uninteresting life."

"Think of the information and history that seniors possess that's lying dormant when it could mean so much to their family," Love said. "Think how exciting it could be, 20 or 30 years in the future, for a youngster to learn about a grandfather or great-grandfather he never met."

Love's project is available at ImaStory.com. You can establish an account simply by entering your e-mail address and a password. There is no charge. After you've established your account, you're ready to start writing.

"You have full control," Love emphasized. "You decide whether you want to share the story with everyone, with just family, anonymously, or keep it completely private. The story is yours alone. It can be kept private for a year, a decade, or a century."

Love became interested in seniors writing their life stories several years ago through his story presentations at area retirement facilities.

"I tell them everyone has a story," Love said. "I encourage them to share their experiences with each other when they begin writing, and to help each other recall important events in their lives. Ordinary people learn that they have extraordinary events to talk about."

Love and Andresen began working on the ImaStory program about six months ago.

"I was looking for help in getting my short stories online and a friend suggested I see Mark," Love said. "I mentioned my interest in getting seniors to write their life stories. The more we talked, the more interested Mark became, and we decided on the Web site. Actually, Mark came up with the ImaStory name."

Andresen is also very serious about the project.

"Everyone wants to know about his family's history, and this is a good way to do it," he said.

Andresen has a special interest in his family history. His father, Richard, died in 2007 from lymphoma. Mark and a fellow marathon runner, Mike Ketchmark, of Leawood, ran in the Antarctica Ice Marathon in 30-below weather that year, raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in his father's memory.

"Family history is important," said Andresen, who lives in Shawnee. "I'm writing mine now."

Love hopes to motivate teachers to assign their students to interview parents and grandparents for life stories.

"We have a prepared lesson plan already available for teacher use on our Web site," said Love. "If teachers get interested, so will others."

Love recently presented a workshop on KCPT-TV titled "Children Writing Their Parents' and Grandparents' Life Stories." It is being made available to 7,000 teachers and 93,000 students in Missouri and Kansas.

"My goal is that every school in America has students interview their parents and grandparents and write their life stories," Love said. "Just imagine the wealth of information and wisdom that would surface to be shared with families and residents of their communities."

Love, 72, was born in Summersville, Mo., and grew up in the Ozarks. As a youngster he worked at his uncle's fishing camp and was fascinated by people sitting around a campfire telling stories.

"I started writing stories in high school, but it was joining writers groups that helped me more than anything," said Love, a member of the Kanas City Writers Group. He has co-authored an award-winning cookbook, Homegrown in the Ozarks: Mountain Meals and Memories, with Mary-Lane Kamberg, of Olathe, an active member of the Writers Group. The book is spiced with tales of Love's youth in the Ozarks.

Love, of Overland Park, majored in business and psychology at Southwest Missouri State in Springfield, Mo., and for 10 years was director of respiratory care at Barnes Hospital, affiliated with Washington University in St. Louis. His acting career includes portrayals as John Calvin McCoy, founder of Westport. In 2004, during the Lewis and Clark bicentennial, he portrayed Silas Goodrich, an expert fisherman. He later turned the role into one-man presentations before civic groups and retirement centers. He also teaches writing and storytelling.