The first time I met Lily Raxter, I had no idea what she would mean to me. I went to interview her about her life in Vanport, and I passed a lovely afternoon with her, listening to her story and capturing her life. When I left her home that day, I never really expected to see her again, as is most often the case when I interview someone.

But when I started editing my footage to produce her story, the more I wanted to do justice to her experience. As I went back to visit and interview her more, we began to form a relationship. Each time I saw her, she and her husband welcomed me into their home, and we talked long after I had finished shooting. She began to invite me to lunch and to events.

Lily and her husband Garland have a large and loving family and a huge network of friends, but she always seems to have time for one more. She asked me to photograph her 80th birthday party. There, surrounded by the hundreds of people she has collected and loved over the years, she did not hesitate to bring me into this beautiful extended family she has made for herself. That was the day she found out that I do not have any living grandparents anymore and upon hearing this, she responded simply, “well, now you have one.”

Lily and her family lost everything in the Vanport flood and now, as she says in her video below, she holds onto people more than things, and I feel so lucky to be one of the many she has drawn into her arms.

This is her story: 

Please consider donating to our crowdfunding campaign and help us continue bringing these stories to the

Meredith Lawrence

Meredith is a journalist and multimedia producer with a background in narrative storytelling and education reporting. She's been part of the Vanport Mosaic since its inception, teaching multimedia production skills in our workshops, and producing several short documentaries based on oral histories interviews to Vanport former residents. Learn more about her here: