Local family saves memories from Hurricane Matthew

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Last fall, Hurricane Matthew raged its way up Florida’s coastline, leaving a path of chaos and destruction in its wake. Prior to the storm, Ponte Vedra resident Don Struble took steps to ensure that his family’s memories and ancestral history would be preserved. Now he is encouraging others to do the same.

Struble, who is now 80 years old, said that his interest in his family lineage began when he was a child.

“It all started when my dad’s stepfather died in 1949,” Struble said. “I was just a little tyke, and I found these [albums] and I gave them to my dad, because I was just a little kid. They’ve been in our family since then.”

Full of vintage photographs and documents dating back to the 1800s, the albums provide a glimpse into a bygone era. As Struble’s collection of family keepsakes has grown over the years, he has made it his goal to learn and preserve all that he can about his genealogy.

“A lot of these people I have never met,” said Struble, as he riffled through a stack of photographs. “The only reason I know all about them is because my dad’s cousin’s wife put all this together. It basically goes all the way up to the ‘60s... and it’s got all of their history.”

While the albums still remain intact, however, their contents have begun to fade and deteriorate with age. In order to preserve his family memories, Don enlisted the help of his daughter-in-law, Lisa, prior to the arrival of Hurricane Matthew.

Lisa, who specializes in the digital preservation of memories, said, “I started with Legacy Republic, which is the digitization and preservation of family memories. When I started with that, we took the albums from the 1800s and had them digitized.”

Although the Struble family was fortunate in that they did not lose any of their possessions during the storm, the knowledge that their family history would be preserved brought them comfort while they waited for Matthew to pass.

“I had received the discs back just prior to the evacuation,” Lisa said. “Knowing that we had them on the discs and that we had access to them on the family Legacy account... there wasn’t concern of getting everything out of the house as there is if you’re trying to evacuate and you don’t have it preserved.”

With hurricane season approaching once more, it is the Strubles’ hope that others will follow in their footsteps and take the necessary steps to preserve their ancestral history.

“A legacy is a collection of life’s moments that matter most: your marriage, the birth of your children, milestones,” Lisa said. “With it being hurricane season again, it’s important to think of preservation.”

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