IPSWICH — They are everyday people who raised families, cooked meals, visited friends, and went to work, church and school.
They are the very fabric of Ipswich and helped form the community as much as it formed them, Terri Unger and Lucy Myers say.
The two Ipswich residents are compiling photographs and interviews with those local people into a book, weaving a firsthand account of Ipswich's rich history, including working in its mills, farms and industry in and on the Ipswich River.
Samples from Myers and Unger's book, "People and Place: Oral Histories and Portraits of Ipswich Seniors," will be highlighted at a lunchtime event Monday at the Ipswich Museum.
Attendees are encouraged to bring their lunch — and questions and comments — to the noon event.
Monday's discussion will center around the Ipswich River and the waterway's central role in forming the town. Myers and Unger will speak about their book project, and a panel of historians will speak on town history and the river's landscape, ecology, shellfishing, boat-building and other industries.
The event is designed to be interactive, Unger said, and attendees are encouraged to ask questions and share.
"We really want to involve the community in this project," said Unger, a professional photographer.
The book profiles 30 people, all above the age of 80, who live in Ipswich and have lived the bulk of their lives in town. Unger's portraits accompany writing by Myers, a former English teacher who leads writing workshops.
"They are personal stories of the American Dream, of work and family, education and opportunity," Unger said. "How people affected Ipswich, the place, and how Ipswich affected people's lives."
The duo hope to finish production on the book and find a publisher this fall. They are producing the project with a grant from Mass Humanities, a state-based affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
"I had long been interested in photographing seniors and telling their stories," Unger said. "Their lives are so spectacular, and people need to hear their stories."
The duo have set up a website, peopleandplaceproject.com, where locals can post photos and comments of their own memories of Ipswich.
On Monday, two portraits and excerpts from the book will be displayed: Tadeusz Jon Lezon, born in 1918 to a farming family, and Sophie Nikas, born to Greek immigrant parents in 1923.
The daughter of a clammer, Nikas talked of cleaning clams with her siblings and selling baskets of steamers for $2.50 in her interview with Myers.
Lezon, who lives in the house he was born in, delivered milk and helped on the family farm.
"I never wanted to leave Ipswich, Ipswich is home," Lezon said in his interview. "The river was No. 1. Just think about it: In the wintertime when it freezes over, you can't find a better skating place. In the spring, you can go canoeing, a nice, delightful ride all the way up to the bridge and back. And when I was young and we wanted to go swimming, the whole gang used to swim by the ice house."
Staff writer Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SNewsBethany.
Ipswich Residents Reflect on the River
What: Brown bag lunch and panel discussion
When: Monday, noon
Where: Ipswich Museum, 54 S. Main St., Ipswich
Admission: $5; free to Ipswich Museum members
What to bring: A brown-bag lunch; complimentary beverages and desserts will be served
More information: PeopleAndPlaceProject.com or IpswichMuseum.org
Panelists: Wayne Castonguay, Trustees of Reservations; Kerry Mackin, Ipswich River Watershed Association; Pat Tyler, Ipswich historian; and Paul Valcour, boater and amateur historian. Moderator is William Sargent, environmental author and consultant on PBS television's "Nova."