Assumption Professor Compiles Anthology of Memoirs by Assisted Living Residents

Feb 12, 2019

When not teaching in the college classroom, Assumption English Professor Lucia Knoles, Ph.D., teaches autobiography writing classes for members of Worcester’s senior community. Throughout the summer, Prof. Knoles collaborated with a group of residents of the Eisenberg Assisted Living Center community in Worcester to produce Our Stories, Our Lives, Volume 3, a compilation of stories commemorating the lives of ten residents. Prof. Knoles and her fellow authors will celebrate the release of this memoir at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 19, at Eisenberg Assisted Living Center, 631 Salisbury St., Worcester. 

Our Stories, Our Lives, Volume 3 is the third installment in a collection of anthologies produced by Prof. Knoles. All of the stories were written as part of a Life Stories Roundtable directed by Prof. Knoles, with the support of Geriatric Nurse Practitioner Melissa Baugham, and Eisenberg Social Worker Josephine Fitzgerald. The first two volumes of Eisenberg stories appeared in 2011 and 2012. Professor Knoles also produced anthologies of writing by residents of Christopher Heights in Marlborough and Whitney Place in Northborough. 

Our Stories, Our Lives Volume 3 includes Ethel Abramoff’s recollections of helping save her family from a house fire when she was a small child, Florence Blatt’s celebration of a sixty-three  year marriage, Birdie Chase’s portrait of her immigrant father, Sid Dorfman’s tale of how he earned his first kiss, Herbert Keilson’s memories of flying B-24’s in WWII, Natalie Maynard’s account of her lifelong struggle with depression, Jim Demetry’s reflections on parenting, Sue Stafford’s personal report on the challenges and rewards of being the daughter of an aging mother, Cindy Crohn’s story about the day she decided between two religions, and Esther Wittner’s love letter to a man “who was just for me.”

“When I first started teaching at Eisenberg, I expected simple reminiscences of life before television,” Prof. Knoles said.  “Instead I’ve been amazed by the way these writers use stories to preserve moments of joy, come to terms with loss, and find meaning in their lives. These memoirs are also a valuable legacy the writers pass into the next generation.”

The celebration will honor the writers and their families. As part of the evening, attendees will have the opportunity to experience what it’s like to be in an autobiography group as everyone will be invited to share a childhood memory.

Prof. Knoles’ enthusiasm continues in the classroom on Assumption’s campus, as her students have engaged in class projects in conjunction with the Eisenberg community on several occasions. Last fall, Prof. Knoles co-taught a women’s studies course with Professor Carl Keyes, Ph.D., in which students conducted interviews with local women in conjunction with the Worcester Women’s Oral History Project. Their finished projects were deposited at the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.  This spring, the students in Professor Knoles’ speech class will record Eisenberg residents as they interview relatives about family memories.  These conversations will then be preserved in the Library of Congress as part of the StoryCorps collection.  

“My students come away from these encounters surprised by how much they can learn from the Eisenberg authors,” Prof. Knoles said. “I feel the same way. Even though I’ve taught writing my entire adult life, this experience has given a new appreciation of the power of stories and the power that older people have to continue learning and producing. I’ve never taught a class of more engaged students.”

The successful outcomes of these projects have led Prof. Knoles to develop the “Keep Growing Initiative” for Eisenberg Assisted Living that will combine reading, writing, and discussions of classic and contemporary texts with field trips to area cultural and nature organizations. She will use her sabbatical during the 2019-20 academic year to research the relationship between life-long-learning and seniors’ quality of life. 

Copies of Our Stories, Our Lives can be purchased online now through the Harvard Bookstore or through Amazon after March 1.