The Uncommon Story of a Common Man
- Cliff Newell
- Lake Oswego Review - News
Everyday people prove to be incredible in Barbara Allen Burke's new book called 'Coming About'
Be alert when you go into a grocery market or a restaurant or just stroll down the street. The people walking by you might be amazing.
That is what Barbara Allen Burke thinks, and with her I Am Story studios she does something about it. By telling the stories of amazing every-day people she opens a rich chapter of history.
'An incredible person might walk into Peet's for a cup of coffee and you would have no idea who they are,' Burke said. 'People don't think they are writers and they don't think their stories are important. But everyone's story is important. Everyone's story is intriguing.'
Still, some stories are better than others. Burke, a Lake Oswego resident, has just completed her biggest project ever, the book 'Coming About,' in which she tells the story of Jack Jouett, also of Lake Oswego. Usually, Burke provides the tools, guidance and know-how for people to write their own life stories.
But with Jouett, she dug in and did the writing herself. The book was 'all-consuming' for three years, and now it is ready so the public can find out about this remarkable man.
'When I met Jack I didn't know what a gem he was,' Burke said.
Burke was stunned by the names she kept turning up while unfolding the Jouett family saga: Charles Lindberg, Chiang Kai-shek, Clark Gable, Jimmy Doolittle and Jack's dad Jack Sr., who was practically a Zelig-type figure of the early days of aviation. Jouett ranged over the world, fighting in major conflicts in exotic foreign lands.
'I met with Jack week after week, and I kept running into incredible people,' Burke said. 'I think of myself as a fairly intelligent, well-educated person, but I was amazed at how little of our history I knew until I learned it from his perspective.'
The cover of the book, showing a beautiful sailboat on the sea, symbolizes what Jouett's story is all about. If the title hadn't already been taken, a good one for it would have been 'Blowin' In The Wind.'
'Jack's story was not planned,' Burke said. 'It evolved. It was like a ship blowing with the wind. So much happened to him that he never planned. That's what sailors do.'
Burke has an able assistant in her husband Doug, who has caught her enthusiasm in a big way.
'This story is less from a textbook and more from a voice,' Doug Burke said. 'And the voice is so personal.'
It was seven years ago that Burke started I Am Story along with her original partner Elizabeth Taylor. The spark for this unusual effort was Burke's intense disappointment following the death of her great grandmother.
'She grew up in the pioneer days of Cripple Creek, Colorado,' Burke said. 'It killed me that no one knew the stories of her life.'
By helping others tell their stories, Burke was able to develop her own talents and education to the highest degree.
'I was able to use story and psychology and art,' she said. 'I like that combination.'
Burke now has a book to sell. She also will continue to give classes, workshops, guidance and inspiration to other people to unlock the treasures of their lives and share them with the world.
'I have such a passion for my work,' Burke said. 'I'm able to find things that not even the families of these people know.
'One time I interviewed these 90-year-old twins and their families didn't believe their stories, so they looked up everything. After they did, they said, 'Guess what? They're true!''
Barbara Allen Burke now has a website on which 'Coming About' can be purchased, along with information about I Am Story studios, including dates of upcoming workshops and classes.
The website address is www.IamStory.com .