Legacy.com has been helping remember people’s lives for more than a decade. It is among the 100 most visited website domains in the U.S. However, the Legacy.com brand name is not well known, and we’re ok with that. Our goal is to make obituaries accessible and meaningful by helping our newspaper and funeral home affiliates do what they do so well: provide accurate, timely and thoughtfully managed information. You might think of us this way: Intel makes processors that help run computers; Boeing makes planes that help airlines transport passengers; and Legacy.com “brings obituaries to life” for users of newspaper and funeral home websites. We help our partners succeed, and, by doing so, we succeed as well.
In 1998 the Internet was still young, and entrepreneurs were just beginning to define the role this new medium might play. I saw its power to tell stories, to capture history. I’ve always been intrigued by the lives of “ordinary” people who have had extraordinary impact on those around them – doctors, teachers, police and fire workers, coaches, service members protecting our country, or single parents overcoming difficult odds. What if these exemplary lives could inspire others? What if more could be said, and more people could be touched by these life stories? What if we could ensure that everyone’s life story would “live on” after they had died?
I believed the Internet could help make this happen. One of the first “life stories” we published was of a man who had emigrated to the U.S. from Slovenia in 1913 when he was 18 years old. As a woodsman, he helped build a vibrant community in the woods of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, he helped provide food and shelter to family, community and complete strangers, while building a successful poultry business, family and legacy over what would be a life of 100 years, until his death in 1996.
He was my grandfather, Frank Bartol. My children never met him in person, but they’ll always be able to remember him online.
The life story we created for him back in 1999 was a modest version of what we offer today. I couldn’t have imagined then that we’d one day help our users create complete social media-enabled memorial sites with photos and video, and that close to a million people each month would express condolences, share memories and reach out to one another in the Guest Books we attached to obituaries. And that we’d publish obituaries and Guest Books for 7 out of 10 Americans who die each day, through partnerships with newspapers in five countries and thousands of funeral homes. And that 50 million+ people would visit our sites annually! In short, none of us probably imagined we’d be able to achieve this kind of reach and impact.
This is what attracted me then, and what now motivates me and the rest of our team every day.