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The Life of Vesper Geer

October 16, 2012

A young Vesper Geer with her goat.

By Michael Turner

For a long time I wanted to make a documentary about an ordinary person’s life. Vesper Geer was in many ways extraordinary: her work ethic, her heart and humor, her pioneer family homestead that she struggled to preserve in a dusty corner of Oregon history. Yet her enduring love for her house, her bittersweet marriages, the cultural and agricultural landscape of the 20th century that changed before a single pair of eyes are things that belong in the emerging genre of microhistory. To discover a passing world through home movies, family scrapbooks, archival recordings made on the back porch on a sunny autumn day — these are things that truly give us the flavor of how life used to be.

When I was commissioned by GeerCrest Farm & Historical Societyto create the movie, my goal was to make something first for Vesper’s family. But, since I was not a Geer, I also wanted to create something that would make a stranger think about the importance of preserving their own family history. Vesper had no children of her own, but still believed that passing on her story was an obligation: “written, narrated around a cozy fireplace on a winter evening, recorded or pictured with subtitles — just don’t take it all to your grave with you! What good is done by taking it with you?”

Vesper Geer with her cat.

Without a story, a place is just a place. When you can’t hear it firsthand around a cozy fireplace, a documentary is a fantastic way to pass on your story: you can see the face of someone who has passed on, hear the way their voice sounded. I never knew Vesper, but she taught me more than I can say, and I feel blessed to have dipped in the stream of her life.

Join us at the following screenings in Fall 2012:

– Oct. 16, Salem Public Library (Loucks Auditorium), 7pm

– Oct. 18, Linn County Historical Museum, 7pm

– Nov. 8, Wilsonville Public Library, 6pm

– Nov. 14, Western Oregon University (Hamersly Library), 7pm

– Dec. 3, Mission Theater (McMenamins History Pub, Portland), 7pm

All screenings are free and feature a question and answer session after the presentation to discuss the movie and the process of creating it. Follow the movie at www.facebook.com/VesperGeer and learn more about the farm at www.geercrest.org.

Michael Turner is a filmmaker living outside Silverton, Oregon.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Marie permalink
    October 17, 2012 4:04 pm

    I saw the movie last night at the Salem library. I was very moved by this woman’s strength of character and unwaivering dedication to her family’s farm. Having had to struggle with the loss of our family farm many years ago, my admiration for Vesper and her farm was deeply personal. To imagine the potential and create a non-profit so as to assure the farm would remain a farm long after she was gone is true wisdom. GeerCrest Farm is now on my “must see places” list!

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