“Be a good homebody” is the advice that Hoosier Lexie Manor’s 90-year-old great-grandfather gave her a few months before he passed away. Not only does she have those words remember him by, but the sound of his voice saying them. In the form of a podcast, Manor captured her great-grandfather’s time in the Navy and police force, stories like how he proposed to his wife and being told by a doctor he wouldn’t live to see his kids grow up, and the simplistic, family-oriented nature he had during his nearly century long life to pass on for generations to come—something many people don’t have, but probably wish they did.
Fast-forward to 2021, and Manor has created this same oral history for around 70 families—and that number is only growing. The conversation with her great-grandfather inspired her to start Words of the Wise, a podcast that shares the stories and wisdom of the elderly. “There’s a lot of ways that you can capture someone’s story,” Manor says. “But to me there’s something about hearing someone’s voice that really captures the type of person they are.”
A self-described old soul, Manor’s idea for her podcast stemmed from her genuine interest in the lives of the elderly and desire to create a tangible way to collect their knowledge for families like she has for her own. With quarantine clearing time in her typically jam-packed schedule, she was able to dive deeper into this passion project to get it off the ground. After she had recorded just a few episodes with people in her life, the grandson of one of her interviewees, a Harvard Business School graduate, approached her with an idea to turn her hobby into a business. By creating heirlooms for these families, he explained, the service she provides is nearly priceless. “He pointed out how if people pay for family photos, they’d definitely pay for this,” Manor says.
Manor took his advice and began charging $200 for an individual interview and $300 for a two-person interview. She took to social media to advertise, but meanwhile, an influx of positive reviews and recommendations from clients got requests flooding in. The process begins with families filling out a form with information on the interviewee, such as major life events or stories for the Muncie native to ask about in addition to her standard questions on childhood, career, family, etc. Then, the family has the option to keep the episode private and have it e-mailed to them or allow Manor to post it to streaming platforms to share. Once the interview is set up, she preps, produces, hosts, and edits all the episodes herself.
On top of all those hats she wears, Manor is 21-year-old college student at DePauw University. Studying communications, working at DePauw’s TV station, and taking a course on podcasting have equipped her with the skills she needs to run the show on her own. The 40-to-60-year age gap between host and subject creates a unique dynamic—and Manor says they seem to appreciate sharing their story with someone so young, but who is also so engrossed in hearing it. For many episodes the subject has never met the host—yet feel comfortable sharing the details of their lives with the feel of a friendly conversation, not a formal interview. Manor says not all guests fully understand what exactly a podcast is, but nonetheless are enthusiastic about recording their episode. Others have become some of the show’s biggest fans, contacting Manor often to let her know they listened to the latest episode.
The podcast is just as enthralling whether you know the subject or not. Some of the stories come from Indiana college football coaches, veterans of war, a sorority house mom, a pastor, to a man who worked at NASA during the Space Race. Anecdotes and accomplishments make up much of an episode, but she also digs deeper—asking for best advice, what’s important in life, influences, regrets, and what the person hopes to be remembered by. Advice like “enjoy every day because you don’t know when it’s gonna end” or “love what you do and it won’t feel like work” have stuck with her. “I know a lot of people say that, but hearing it from those individuals who have grown up and lived a lot more life than I have makes me feel like I should listen to it,” Manor says.
Manor is taking that advice and continuing full steam ahead with the podcast as she enters her senior year. She believes Words of the Wise is something she is always going to be doing, whether that’s on the side or full time. “Once I’ve finished recording the interview, I have a sense of relief because I know someone else’s story is saved forever,” Manor says.
Words of the Wise is available to listen on Spotify and Apple Podcasts and requests for interviews can be made through the form on @wordsofthewisepodcast Instagram bio.