Campground Conversations – Elder storyteller

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”– Rudyard Kipling

Every year, my son and I celebrate by doing something we both love…camping, kayaking, being in nature, and experiencing things together for just 24-36 hours a year!  This year, after work, we headed up to Door County Peninsula Park in Wisconsin.

door-peninsula-state-park-wi

It was a dark and rainy evening. We arrived at our campground by Rowley’s Bay, WI. The wonderful ladies who checked us in told us everything we needed or wanted to know about what was in the area and where we could grab a great meal.

Unfortunately, we didn’t think we would make the renowned Fish Boil and performance that was down the road via a trail through the woods. After settling in, we decided to head down the trail, (the rain had stopped for us) and at least get the dinner if we missed the “performance”.

We arrived at the Inn,  and walked inside, quietly joining the crowd that was intently listening to the story that was being told.

In the center of this crowd was a man sitting backwards on his roller walker. We caught the last third of the story, but we looked at each other and knew—we had stumbled into something really awesome and special. This story telling gentleman was filling the space  with his rich voice and using his hands to help envision what he was sharing. My son and I became instantly enthralled with his story and his large capable hands that showed all the signs of an experienced, full life.

eileen-story-teller

He told the story of the history of the bay and surrounding area. He was a descendant of the original family who settled the area. He told the story about the beginnings of a fish boil and what to expect once we all gathered outside around the cauldron.

I don’t remember how old he said he was,it didn’t matter.  What mattered was my son and I were able to have this memorable experience together–witnessing the amazing gift of a wise and talented story teller – way up north at the end of the Door County peninsula, at a campground—in a Yurt.

Now this unforgettable elder is part of our story.

Stories have power. They delight, enchant, touch, teach, recall, inspire, motivate, and challenge. They help us understand. They imprint a picture on our minds. Our storytelling ability, a uniquely ancient human trait, has been with us as long as we’ve been able to speak and listen. Not only do people love to tell stories, people love to hear stories!

I work at Carolina Assisted Living in Appleton, WI.  We have an exciting opportunity to harvest the wisdom, the humor, and memories we hear every day. We live and work beside elders who have journeyed almost a full century on this planet. Through their stories, we connect with one another while giving our resident storytellers the gift of reconnecting   with us, their children, and grandchildren for generations to come.


We are preserving stories in audio, video, and written form to cherish these precious moments!

“The planet does not need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.” – Dalai Lama

Learn more about legacy collection and the Tiny Stories project!     Watch and listen to this 50 second Tiny Story gift from Nancy Youngans, who tells us about her trip to Verona Italy, and what she learned.


About the author:  Eileen English is the administrator at Carolina Assisted Living in Appleton Wisconsin.  (Carolina is part of the Compass Senior Living family)

Eileen  has worked with elders for more than 40 years and feels her work is a passion, not a job. She was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, and later became a Coast Guard wife – eileen-wilsonwhich took her all over the country. She has lived in many states but is happy to now be in Wisconsin near two of her grandchildren. In her free time, Eileen enjoys being outside hiking, kayaking and camping, and spending time with her two sons and three grandchildren.

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