Most of the 5,000-plus Veterans we’ve interviewed for the “My Life, My Story” project aren’t famous. In fact, when we enter someone’s hospital room to ask if they’d like to participate, we usually know absolutely nothing about them. And we do that on purpose.
We think this approach gives the Veteran free rein to talk about any aspect of their life that they want to share with their health care providers. That freedom creates spontaneity, we think, that leads to better stories.
Second, we like to think we don’t have biases that spill into our interviews. Consider: if you knew that a Veteran had just received a new liver because he was a lifelong alcoholic, would it cloud your perception of how he tells his story? Would you subtly point the interview toward his past struggles with alcoholism? Maybe not. But still, we want the Veteran to decide what to talk about, not us.
Now and again, however, we interview someone whose history is already familiar to us. That was the case with Tom Every, a.k.a. Dr. Evermor, who we interviewed several years before his death in 2020. Dr. Evermor was a well-known artist in the Midwest, known for welding and shaping junkyard castoffs into wild, funny, often-towering sculptures. He’d been featured on TV shows and in magazines and documentaries.
Funny thing, though. His interviewer didn’t know this about him. It wasn’t until Tom revealed his artistic doppelganger that the writer realized who he was talking to. Again, we think that led to a story very different from the typical features you’d read about “Dr. Evermor” in a magazine or newspaper.
For more about Dr. Evermor, check out this website about his sculpture garden in Wisconsin. There were also articles published about him when he passed away in the spring of 2020 that you can read here and here.
Seth Jovaag is a writer, editor and producer for the My Life, My Story project.