The Expositor
Brantford, Ontario


MONDAY, NOV. 15, 1999

OUR 147th YEAR


Volunteering beneficial to health

Kit McDermott
Kit McDermott is a local freelance writer whose columns appear every Monday in The Expositor. Readers wishing to get in touch with Kit may leave a message at 756-2020, Ext 224, or write to her in care of The Expositor, 53 Dalhousie St., Brantford, Ontario, N3T 5S8.

She calls her book a "memory tutor: and for author Patricia A. Williams, the format is intended to help people record their lives and honour the memory of family and beloved friends.

Once Upon A Lifetime contains 101 questions designed to stimulate reflections of past and present events, thoughts, wishes, goals and achievements.

"The book is really for all ages, to keep and pass on as a journal, a history of facts and anecdotes, a legacy for future generations," Patricia said.

The occasion was the book signing and presentation of her book to residents of RiverView Terrace Retirement Home when the author visited Brantford recently.

Patricia Williams is the  author of
Once Upon a Lifetime ...

"The idea to do something special honouring the International Year of Older Persons, came to us in a coincidental way," Val Gajda, Marketing and Sales Manager for Terraces by Hallman, confided. "At a meeting with our life enrichment managers, we talked about the possibility of helping residents to record their lives, and one person said her brother in Edmonton had given their mother a book filled with questions to answer, questions relating to her life. It sounded perfect for our project and I planned to research the book at Chapters bookstore.

"But the late Peter Hallman of our group of retirement homes, suggested I should go to the source and phone the author. Thatís how I first met Patricia, who happened to be in her office, and we connected right away. I ordered the books and asked if she might happen to be in Ontario sometime this year, to make personal presentations to the residents in our four homes located in Kitchener, Waterloo Cambridge and Brantford. As luck would have it, Patricia has a married daughter and two grandchildren living in Kingston."

The author said. I was anxious to see them, it had been almost a year, so I was due for hugs all around.

"Sure, I loved the idea of meeting the people who would receive my book. It had to be November," she added, " and it has worked out perfectly. I have a married son in Calgary and another granddaughter.

When I met with Patricia and Val on the book signing and presentation day at RiverView, I soon leaned that the sales of Once Upon A Lifetime were to benefit two local community organizations.

"A portion of the proceeds from books sold at BGH will be donated to the Hospital Foundation", Val explains. "And on Nov. 18, weíll be at the Lynden Park Mall. Thatís Seniors Day, and on that occasion, donations will benefit the Christmas Baskets fund. We think the book is a great gift idea and reasonable priced."

Patricia said she was determined that the book Ďremain affordable, so it sells for $20, all-inclusive. There is no tax because of the charity benefits.


Of course, other prices may apply when buying retail in quantity, or the computer version, orderline and details on pricing can also be found in the back of each book.

There is a French version, entitled Il Etait Une Fois Ė Ma Vie, and itís now available in France, Belgium and Switzerland, as well as in Canada. Apparently, sales in the United States are brisk, and Patricia's goal is to reach around the world.

Itís so important for people to share their life stories, especially within the family," she says. "The idea of questioning older individuals about their backgrounds came to me after my own father died, and I realized that I knew very little about his past. Although we were very close we never got around to discussing more than everyday subjects. I soon realized that this is often the case, because children donít think of asking enough questions about their parentsí and grandparentsí younger days and nowadays, families are too busy for in-depth discussions or live too far apart for regular visits and conversations.

"I had made two lists originally, one for recording personal effects for reference and the other, noting family history. I had the lists compiled in a booklet and before long I received requests for the lists from companies such as Costco and Chapters Bookstores. Then came a call from the U.S. about the lists, and suddenly I realized that with all this interest, maybe, I should come up with a complete book, a comprehensive guideline covering every facet of life.

There is no doubt that the author has given a great deal of thought to the suggestions for eliciting informative accounts of lifetime experiences. There are questions under such headings as Childhood, School Days, Marriage, Parenting, Careers, Retirement, along with an opportunity to note goals, achievements, dreams and where o9ne goal has led to another, with successes and failures.

The book can be used as a personal diary, or as a wonderful way of interacting with older members of the family.

"Iíve had a young woman, age 20, say to me, this is really neat, I can start writing about what I did as a child and in school, while Iím still close to those days, and try to keep on answering the questions as I grow older," Patricia recalls.

There are questions about where a person loved as a child, what the family celebrations were like, what toys and games were favorites. Descriptions of family hoes, communities and friends are requested and naturally, itís up to each person how much he or she wants to tell, whether the end result is to be a factual family history, or a true diary, even an autobiography.

"Filling in answers to just a few questions at a time is often a good idea," Patricia commented. "It can be a good way of bringing back long forgotten memories and laughing over incidents experienced within the family setting, often revealing family traits."


In her own bio, Patricia notes that she was born and raised in the province of Alberta.

"I lived in Edmonton until I was 11, when we moved to Fort Saskatchewan where my parents owned and operated a restaurant. It was called Lyleís Lunch, a typical Ď50s style diner, where everyone gathered. My parents worked long hours and as their only child, I became independent at a young age. Working for my father gave me my first taste of the business world."

Every day, little Patricia walked to the diner before school and typed the daily menu. She worked as a cashier, as a waitress after school and on weekends when necessary, and had to budget her weekly allowance.

"A valuable lesson in handling money wisely," she says, "and to this day I consider myself a good money manager.

After graduating from high school, I moved to Calgary, completed a petroleum secretarial course at Mount Royal College and worked several years at Mobil Oil.

"I got married and later chose to be a stay-at-home mom when my son and daughter were born. When my marriage ended, I rejoined the workforce as executive secretary for the regional manager of marketing, CN Rail. I remarried and stayed at home while my children were growing up. When empty nest time of life arrived, I felt a great desire to become an entrepreneur."

Thatís when the idea was born which would lead to the creation of her company, The Time Broker Inc. Edmonton. After learning how to operate a computer, Patricia put together a questionnaire for the initial interviews and filed all the legal documents necessary to operate a home-based business.

Once she had progressed to writing and self-publishing her book, the energetic senior says she became totally committed to the project. She worked around the clock to bring out the first 1,200 copies before Christmas, 1996, and before long the head buyer at Costco phoned to ask if she was aware of her sales. They were phenomenal. The book is now also carried by Chapters, Coles and Smith Book Stores across Canada, and is in its 11th printing.

The author is still the companyís employee, although her husband Harry is very supportive and "often helps stack the odd hundreds boxes or so of books."

Popular cookbook author Jean Pare, of the Companyís Coming series, has been a great help, as well.

"She is a friend and is always ready to share experiences and publishing tips. I decided on the coil binding used for many cookbooks, because of the convenience of being able to spread the book flat, while filling in the question spaces."

"There are numerous lovely grandparents books on the market today, I know, but I feel that Once Upon A Lifetime is detailed and comprehensive, and suited to all ages.

"I have met so many terrific people during and after publishing my book and love the feeling that I can help the generations to communicate along with providing a valuable legacy for the future."