OLD - Team
Kathryn Gonzales, Founder
When I was in high school, I thought to record my grandmothers telling all of their favorite stories, but like a lot of young people, I took for granted that I had plenty of time to accomplish this. Unfortunately, they both passed away before I could to gather their tortilla recipes and tales of the "good old days" and honestly, one of the very few regrets I have in life is not taking action while I had the chance.
A dear friend of mine planted the seed for Live Oak Legacies on a visit to Chicago in 2012. I was deciding whether or not to leave my job in NYC when she suggested that I combine my journalism background and start-up experience in journalism with my love for the elderly community to help families gather their stories.
Meanwhile, I'd become incredibly close with William Brooks who was my 90-year-old neighbor in East Austin before I moved away. He and I remained close over the years. So close, in fact, that I referred to him as Grandpa Brooks. I decided that I wouldn't make the same mistake with Mr. Brooks as I'd made with my grandmothers, so I put my life in Brooklyn on hold and returned to Austin in early 2013 to gather his story.
I created a video, book and family website for Mr. Brooks and put the finishing touches on the project just weeks before he passed away. His last wish to me was to ensure that everyone he loved had the opportunity to see the work we'd done. We had his book on display and his video on loop at the memorial service, and I opened up his website for friends and family members to pay their respects. It was in then that I knew I had to give this gift to as many families as possible, and thus decided officially to pursue Live Oak Legacies on a full-time basis.
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Ben Leffler, Outreach Director
Family is a huge part of my life. I was lucky enough to be born and raised in Austin with amazing parents and three brothers. My dad is a US history professor, and I grew up hearing and reading about the amazing people he encountered during his research. These experiences proved to be very formative, though it wasn't clear to me at the time.
I worked for several startups and freelanced for a few local publications after graduating from UT, but I decided I wanted to make a bigger impact, so I returned to the university to pursue a master's in public affairs. I spent most of the program honing my writing and research skills. My subjects spanned from scientists to musicians and everyone in between and it was during this time that I realized how much I enjoy interviewing people and documenting these discussions.
Since graduate school I have worked in a number of policy-related positions, including jobs at the City of Austin and at an environmental nonprofit, but I was always looking for an interesting challenge, perhaps one that would integrate my entrepreneurial skills. When Kathryn approached me to help start Live Oak Legacies, I was intrigued. The more time I spent working with her on the project, the more I realized we were onto something special. Our shared commitment to family history preservation and honoring our elders sets a strong foundation for Live Oak Legacies and we're thrilled to bring this service to families.
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