Chaplain Taylor Phillips from Westminster Oaks shares how he captures the stories of residents as part of our Mission, in this “Mission Moment.” From these interviews, he creates books that have become an integral part of their ministry in the community, sharing the history of its residents. Learn more in this “Mission Moment.”
Serving as chaplain at Westminster Oaks, I collect stories from the lives of our residents. So far, our stories have included account from:
- A survivor of hand-to-hand combat at the Battle of Iwo Jima
- An escapee from the Japanese-American internment camps
- Several escapees from Nazi Germany
- A president of Florida State University during the protest era
- A national champion water-skier
- A governor and first lady of Florida
- A Holocaust survivor
- A pilot who disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle
- An engineer who worked on NASA’s moon landings
- A lady who forged passports for the French Resistance
- A Nobel Prize-winning physicist
- Several career CIA and other intelligence agents
And many more!
I bring our residents out to speak at local high schools and invite student groups to come and listen to their stories. Students have created projects for the Florida History Fair competitions that have won district, state, national and international honors and awards. The stories about these amazing individuals have been published throughout Florida, the U.S. and the world. One standout interview was with one of our residents, Valerie, who shared her story of surviving the Luftwaffe bombing of England. This was at a recording session at the downtown library by National Public Radio as part of their StoryCorps project.
To accompany these stories, I ask residents and their families to send me photos and their personal accounts. Each October, following the church tradition of the Service of Remembrance, we share photos and anecdotes from the lives of the residents who have passed away since the prior October. Afterwards we create a printed book, which we add to our collection in the reading area. With this we are archiving not only the moments with historical significance, but also preserving memories from each unique journey. These form a broad range of stories from across the political, cultural and intellectual spectrums, that led to a happy retirement.
Residents tell me about each other’s stories, and families say that they appreciate my interest in them. On one occasion, while out in public some one said to me, “I know you. My aunt was a Rosie the Riveter, and you thought that was really neat.” Twenty years on, these conversations happen at the grocery store and the coffee shop more and more frequently.
Often, when I am out in the community, I hear of people’s happy memories of Westminster Oaks, often from adult children recalling their last moments with their parents.
I am thankful for the opportunity to share these incredible stories and spread our mission here at Westminster Oaks and in the larger community.