BROOKLINE -- After spending years in high-tech, Dan Marcek found himself unemployed and looking for a new life and a new job in 2008.
Marcek realized he finally had some time to volunteer and so he connected with a youngster through the Big Brothers, Big Sisters organization. One day, when Marcek and the boy were talking, the youth told him about a 100-year-old man from Brookline who needed some help building tables.
“I'm a woodworker, so I thought I could help,” said Marcek, who has lived in town since 1982.
He went to meet Bob Flannery, who lived on a remote wooded lot in a house he built by hand. A friendship developed.
“I started helping him, and he started telling me stories about what life was like 100 years ago,” said Marcek. “And as I listened, I realized that when he's gone, these stories are gone too.”
Marcek realized that to preserve that history, he needed to do something. He and a college roommate who was also out of work and had a strong background in audio-visual production began interviewing older folks with stories to tell.
The business end of their venture became Pensieve Arts, a company that focuses on creating documentaries featuring the stories of matriarchs and patriarchs to preserve for the next generations.
“Families want as much time with their elderly family members as possible, so we make films that include their stories and integrate pictures and historical content that can be passed down from one generation to the next,” said Marcek.
While talking to Flannery, Marcek discovered he had served in the Navy during World War II as a Seabee, a construction arm of the military that builds needed infrastructure.
Marcek began focusing on the lives of Seabees. He interviewed and filmed them for a nonprofit division of his company called “Vetflix,” which is dedicated to preserving the stories of both active-duty members of the military and veterans.
“The idea is that these histories can teach us about the real cost of war — the impact on real people,” said Marcek. “They carry these experiences with them through their lives and our mission is to tell people their stories.”
One of the stories that really stuck with Marcek was about a Vietnam veteran who learned at basic training that because he was an only child, he was exempt from going to Vietnam.
“He went and asked his commanding officer if that was true, that he could avoid Vietnam, and the commanding officer told him yes, so he put in for the exemption,” Marcek said.
But then the soldier went back to his bunk and couldn't sleep. All he could think of was that he was letting his fellow soldiers down by getting out of going to war.
“He went back to his commander the next day and withdrew his request for the exemption,” Marcek said, “and he went to Vietnam, leaving behind a 10-day-old baby and his new wife at home.”
Some of Marcek's films have been included in exhibits at the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum in Port Hueneme, Calif.; the Navy has asked to be the official repository of Marcek's films. Marcek said he needs to start fundraising to offset the cost of putting the films together.
“I believe there are donors out there who understand the value of these stories,” he said. “I just have to find them.”
For more information, visit www.vetflix.org.