Kathe Kleinau has always been enthralled with people's stories and in early 2017, not long after moving into The Village of Wentworth Heights in Hamilton, she found she was immersed in them. Her neighbours were regular people like her with vast backgrounds, she quickly discovered, and she thought their tales of the ordinary and extraordinary adventures that come with decades of human experience should be captured and preserved.
She decided then to begin a collection of these stories and just over two years later, she presented The Founder’s Legacy at a book launch hosted by her Village, never imagining it would be so well received within her community. Four months after that launch, she has but seven copies left and she has already begun working on a second edition.
“I am so surprised,” she says. “It has been wonderful. People came up to me and said ‘I want to be part of the second book,’ so I started working on it.” As of the end of October, she has eight new stories written for the second edition, including those of residents, but also a team member as well. Her intention is to have a balanced mix of both residents and those who support them because, as Kathe says, “we are all one community.”
Every community member has a unique story to tell, and doing so can help them reflect upon their own history, realizing in the process that what they might have thought of as plain or ordinary is much more than that.
“I am very, very honoured that they trust me,” Kathe says, “but on the other hand I can see that it’s sort of healing for them to go back and look at things again and discover that there were really a lot of blessings in their lives.
“I remember one lady,” Kathe continues, “she was hesitant in the beginning, but then we did the story and, in the end, she said: ‘It’s a really good story, isn’t it?’
“She was so proud of it.”
While Kathe did the bulk of the original interviewing and writing, she says the final product would not have come into being without the ongoing support of many people, including three main collaborators: Village Chaplain Ken Styles, Kathe’s daughter Christine De Deer and fellow resident Ann Wingfield, whose artwork adds depth and colour throughout the book.
“This is the first time Ann’s paintings got into the public and I was just so pleased,” Kathe says. “I could not have done it by myself. When people say it’s my book it’s really our book.”
And it is a project they should all be proud of. If all goes well, Kathe Hopes to have the second edition ready to share by Christmas of 2020.