Harold LaDuke has documented his life and the lives of others in a way that reminds us that life is a gift worth living and worth honoring.
Born May 2, 1925, Harold was raised during the Great Depression. He enlisted and served in the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1946 as a radio operator on an amphibious ship where he survived many WWII battles. Two of those battles were Iwo Jima and Okinawa, for which Harold was awarded two Battlestar commendations. Coming back from the war was not easy for anyone, but Harold had learned much from his experiences in the service. Not only had his experience strengthened his spiritual faith, but he learned “how people need and respond to kindness and understanding, how there are many different types and persuasions of people and what really deep friendships can mean,” said Harold.
During his service, he found a Japanese soldier’s wallet floating in the water. Harold was brought to tears by the family photos he found still inside. Many years later, Harold retold this story during a ceremony honoring those who fought. At the end of the ceremony, a disgruntled man approached Harold and grabbed him by the collar to express his utter disbelief that Harold had wept for the young soldier and his family.
“You didn’t cry,” he argued, denying that Harold had expressed empathy as he thought it utterly improbable. As the stranger eventually began to calm down he asked Harold if he was a Christian.
Harold acknowledged that he was and said to the stranger, “I’m willing to bet you are, too.”
The man nodded and came to the realization that Harold’s empathy was in fact genuine. Harold’s war experiences had also made him believe in the power of compassion and the value of peace.
When Harold returned from the war, he married a beautiful young woman named Helen whom he had known since high school. Harold and Helen moved to Washington and raised four children. By their late fifties, they made a decision to begin traveling the world together. They attended one of travel author Rick Steves’ seminars where Harold asked Steves about his thoughts on taking a video camera along on their travels. Steves was aghast at the thought and urged Harold to leave his camera at home so that he could enjoy the trip without having to worry about moving camera equipment around. Nonetheless, Harold, being quite the contrarian, purchased his first Canon soon after and started documenting their trips under the name H&H Productions. These travels gave him great perspective on the different ways people live life.
For Harold, life is worth documenting because it’s worth living. For this reason he is always working on a project, always working on living life. Harold is fascinated by unique experiences and not just his own. During his missionary work in Haiti, Harold was inspired by the reaction children had to seeing themselves on film for the first time. In 2015, Harold filmed and published a documentary on the Puget Sound Honor Flight®, an all volunteer program created to honor America’s brave veterans for their sacrifices in WWII. The program transported Harold and 54 other veterans to Washington, D.C., where they participated in ceremonies and visited memorials built in their honor. During the trip, Harold interviewed the veterans and recorded the events and ceremonies. He sold copies of the documentary for $25 each and all the money earned went back into the Honor Flight® program. Harold has witnessed firsthand the positive power of documenting life experiences and has even written an autobiography about he and his wife’s life together.
Harold has also contributed a lot to the Wesley Homes community, documenting the Wesley Homes Lea Hill Rehabilitation and Care Center groundbreaking, the residents’ pillowcase donation to children’s charities and more recently, the floral arrangements around the care center. Harold believes his life is a gift from God and is not only worth living but worth documenting. We each have a story that we write everyday we live it. By preserving our personal histories, we acknowledge the inherent worth of living life. This appreciation is what allows us to live fulfilled and age successfully.