NEW BREMEN — Duane Mullen, of Sidney, says he’s not a well-traveled man, but every other month, he takes residents of Elmwood Assisted Living, here, on “excursions” to see places and things without ever leaving the facility.
He shows photographs he has taken on trips with his wife, Pat, and talks about his favorite things to take pictures of: flowers.
“I know nothing about flowers, but I like flowers. I like the color,” he said. “Anywhere I go — I might take a picture at a rest area or a filling station. I’m the guy who shoots pictures and shoots pictures and shoots pictures.”
The Elmwood visits began when his mother, who died three and a half years ago, was a resident there.
“I would take my Kindle up there with photos on it to show her family things. Other residents would gather around and look,” he said.
These days, he puts together shows of 65 to 100 photos that he can get through in an hour. They are of animals, interesting items he finds as he travels and the beloved flowers.
“It’s not really a travelogue,” he said.
Often, the pictures are from places that members of his audience have been, too, and they spark conversations and reminiscences.
“Every time he comes, he comes with a different trip he’s taken. (The residents) absolutely love seeing pictures of where he’s been. Before he comes, when we are trying to gather our residents, they think, ‘Oh, I’ve been there,’” said Activities Assistant Jessica Schwieterman.
Mullen has shared travels to Wyoming, Michigan, North and South Carolina, Virginia.
“We (he and residents) are ‘going’ to upstate New York soon,” he said.
His audience ranges from four or five to 12 or 14 people each time.
“One lady’s been in all but one state, so she’s been everywhere I’ve been. I encourage them to ask questions,” Mullen said.
He tells stories about the trips and how he gets the photos. His usual camera is a Canon digital.
“I used to have 24 frames on a roll of film and have to decide what to take a picture of. Now I can take 24 pictures of one flower if I want to,” he said.
The travel photos give him an opportunity share, he added.
“I’m retired. I’ve got the time. If I can bring joy to someone, why not?” he said.
During the road trips, he and Pat religiously take turns driving, switching places every two hours. The one who isn’t driving is usually shooting photos, even from the moving car. Their trips, Mullen said, are about building memories and having fun. It’s not unusual for them to veer off course to discover something unusual that piques their interest.
“We were driving in South Dakota and we saw a sign that says ‘Little House on the Prairie.’ So we took a right and drove 50 miles to De Smet and saw the little house on the prairie,” he said. By going off the beaten path, the couple have enjoyed a museum in Bowling Green, Ohio, dedicated to the Civil War and one in Georgetown, South Carolina, showcasing the Gullah culture.
“A man just sitting in the museum, which is about as big as (the Sidney Daily News) lobby, talked for two hours about the language and the culture,” Mullen said.
They went through Mount Airy, North Carolina, and visited sites connected to actor Andy Griffith. Those and visits to Tennessee and Georgia are all likely to show up on the screen at Elmwood.
“Duane’s a really nice guy. He’s very personable. He’ll stay and talk to someone. The residents really enjoy when he comes and shares his pictures,” Schwieterman said.
Knowing that he’s likely to be making a presentation about a trip doesn’t influence where Mullen and Pat go, but he does keep the presentations in mind when he’s deciding what to photograph. Still, documenting their adventures in pictures would happen, presentations or no.
“They’re not for exhibitions,” he said. “They’re for memories.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.