Taylor Community and Wright Museum Launch “Faces of Taylor”

Sitting in a crimson red chair in the living room of his charming apartment, 96-year-old Joe Picard took a deep breath, looked into the camera, and began recalling his memories from more than 70 years ago during World War II.

Powerful moments like these have been captured throughout the summer, with veterans and family members of veterans alike sharing their stories from the World War II era as part of a collaboration between Taylor Community, a nonprofit continuing care retirement community, and the Wright Museum of WWII.

Picard’s moving recollection of the war has become the first story unveiled in the “Faces of Taylor” series of videos that shed light on some of their residents who experienced life during WWII.

In this first video, Picard shares his experience enlisting for the draft in 1943 and of his service overseas, while discussing how his unit moved through Scotland, England, Germany and France until his return home in 1945.  Commonly called “Pic” while in the military, Picard was a Field Clerk in his battery.

At times, Picard chokes up and looks off into the distance deep in thought while recalling the friends he had lost, including his best friend that originally was a native of Laconia.

“It has been an incredibly moving and emotional experience filming these stories and recording the audio pieces for this project,” said Alana Persson, a Taylor Community employee who is filming the Faces of Taylor series.

Persson, who said she’s shed both tears with residents and laughter too throughout this process, also said that this project has meant a lot to her due to her childhood ties to Taylor.

“Growing up, my mom was a volunteer at Taylor and each week visited residents in the Taylor Home. One resident in particular named Tony, I grew very fond of because of the incredible stories he would tell, so I began visiting weekly,” said Persson, going on to note that Tony happened to be a WWII veteran and former prisoner of war.

While Tony has since passed, this opportunity has meant a lot to Persson as now she is able to capture other stories so that they too can be shared. “I’ve pursued this project with Tony often on my mind, realizing that while I can’t capture his story, I can capture other stories like Joe’s so that these stories and people can live on,” said Persson.   

Joe Picard at the grave of his friend, Raymond Bolduc, who served with him in WWII

According to Mike Culver, executive director of the Wright Museum, first-person narratives from WWII veterans are “increasingly rare.”

“Joe’s story underscores the importance of the Wright Museum in being able to present these stories to people of all ages,” he said. “We are thrilled to work with Taylor Community on this project.

Other videos in the series will be released monthly in addition to accompanying written stories. “As a museum, part of our role is to preserve not just artifacts, but the memories of the way things were and how they connect to today,” added Culver. “This is a collaboration that has all of us deeply moved.”

One such individual that has been deeply moved like Culver has been Gretchen Gandini, Director of Development and Community Outreach at Taylor Community. Like Persson, Gandini has grown close with many residents, including Picard, which has made the project incredibly meaningful to see come to fruition.  

“I’ve come to know so many residents while working at Taylor and one of my favorite parts of working here is listening to their stories,” said Gandini. “So many of our beloved residents have lived incredible lives and it’s wonderful that through this partnership with The Wright their stories can be shared with the greater community.”  

Faces of Taylor will culminate in a 30-minute pre-recorded video that will be released in the summer as part of a special virtual event that includes interviews with residents.

In addition to Faces of Taylor, Taylor Community is co-presenting Shaped by Conflict: Mementoes of the WWII Era, an exhibit that provides an in-depth look at common mementos and personal items of the WWII era. Some items in the exhibit, co-presented by Weirs Publishing Company and John and Evelyn Frank, includes sweetheart jewelry, trench art, journals and diaries, and more.

The region’s leading resource for educators and learners of all ages on World War II, the Wright Museum features more than 14,000 items in its collection that are representative of both the homefront and battlefield.