David Sawyer was very close to his grandmother. But it wasn't until her funeral in 2013 that he learned she had been a nurse in World War II.
"After her passing, I recognized that I never got to know her," he said. "She lived such an amazing life. Now I'm trying to get these stories from family members. History died in front of my eyes and there was nothing I did to try to preserve it."
Sawyer hopes a new business he created will help others avoid missing out on their family's personal stories.
The 23-year-old Stetson University student has created a website, the Story of Life (tsolife.wordpress.com), that allows users to record and share stories from their lives with family members.
The website is set to launch its second version soon, and Sawyer said he has hundreds of paying customers already.
In conceptualizing the concept, Sawyer worked with a nursing home, recording stories of World War II veterans. Those recording sessions revealed that two of those veterans had actually been in the U.S. Navy at the same time in the same battle on the Pacific.
"I have always wanted to create and had that entrepreneur's bug," he said. "My mother likes to jokingly say that I found a way to put myself more in debt while in college. But they love it."
Sawyer, who says he has been starting businesses since high school — although most have "failed miserably" — said family members have been generally supportive of his new venture.
"It's one of the most rewarding things I've ever done," he said. "One of the people passed away in the middle of our work with them. It was amazing to be able to take the story, compile it and pass it on to family members so they can appreciate what their family members left."
It's something Sawyer said he would have liked to have had when his grandmother died.
"I didn't have some magical site where I can go and learn about my grandmother," he said.