Our Story: Gene & Susan McGowan


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If you are a member of the Gene and Susan McGowan family you have a pretty good idea where you are going to be the last week of June each year.  The Fair Hills Resort on Pelican Lake near Detroit Lakes, Minnesota has been the home of the McGowan Family annual retreat for many years. This year, StoryTelling America joined the McGowan family for a couple of days to record conversations that allowed them to share many stories about the family’s history that have helped form their principles and shaped their beliefs.

Click on white arrow to watch video clip.

Gene and Susan recently shared with StoryTelling America some thoughts on creating “Our Story”. Included are a couple of video clips from their story.


What does Fair Hills mean to you?

Susan:  Fair Hills is the setting for the microcosm of our family's existence. 

"Our Story:  Gene & Susan McGowan" 
archive package
[click image to enlarge]

What expectations did you have when you started the "Our Story" project?

Gene: We didn’t say what the subject material would need to be ahead of time, our family simply talked about what was important to them...stories that were a source of pride as to who we are and what we've accomplished.  We all took ownership in that.

Susan: You wonder, is our story worth telling anybody? Then you start telling your story and you become excited about it. Even though we talked and lived our own story once we saw it all put together it was very exciting for us and our kids to watch.

Is it just a 'family history' story?

Gene: We understand the historical value, but don’t underestimate the value of what you are doing right now.

By vocalizing and articulating these events, and in our case multiplying that through 11 grandchildren and 10 adults, the collective benefit was realized when we all sat in a room and heard ourselves say those things that we believe in. It created an imprint that is so much stronger than anyone's individual words. The whole thing has great merit for the benefit of the family that is here today.

Was it difficult?

Susan: No it wasn't.  People would be surprised how easy it was. In fact, it was rather cathartic.  I always felt we were being well taken care of...this was not something that anyone was ever going to be embarrassed by...I just thought we were in a safe place. 

Click on white arrow to watch video clip.

Why was it important for you to do this? 

Gene: This was an incredibly important exercise. The value of this was to introduce events in a period in time to which all our family could sit back, take time and have a conversation.

Susan: Families aren’t always put together biologically. It’s not necessarily how the family is put together, but what you do with it. I was proud with how our kids shared this, they didn’t make it up. What they said was true.

Gene: I wanted future generations to see who all these people were on this date in 2016, what they looked like and what they talked about. Future generations are going to better know their ancestors then if we hadn’t done this.

"Our Story:  Gene & Susan McGowan"
online package
[click image to enlarge]

Now that "Our Story..." is done what do you think?

Gene: I look at this and I say, “We really did do something, we did accomplish something.” The things that we believe in are not the things that people tell us, but are the things that we say.

Susan: The fun part for me was to watch the rest of the family members, kids, grandchildren, in-laws…all react to it. They all learned something.

Was it worth it?   

Gene:  When I die, the fact that I spent what we did is not going to make any difference.  I’d probably tell people if you are looking for a dollar value I’d suggest you don’t do this.  There are no comparisons, either you want it or you don’t want it and this is what it cost to do a decent job.  The most important thing is that you do something.  Ask yourself, “How important is it?  Do you want an important project?  Do you want to make this an important part of your and your family’s lives?”  

We got what we wanted!