‘Amazing what we can get back’: Jefferson man saves memories by restoring old photos

JEFFERSON, Wis. – As many are making new memories this Christmas, a Jefferson man is working to preserve the old ones.

Over the years, memories fade, even those we manage to capture in photographs.

“Like a lot of people with war pictures, those are disappearing,” Kevin Gess said. “The 110s like from the 70s, those are all turning bright red — the pictures, the negatives.”

As our memories lose their color, in our minds and in our photographs, Gess wants people to know they’re not lost.

“It’s amazing what we can get back,” he said. “I just don’t want people to throw those memories away when they can be saved.”

“We were desperate, we really were,” said Clare Liebe of southeast Wisconsin. She and her husband, Larry Liebe, had a lot that needed saving.

“I mean, what were we going to do with 1,400 slides sitting in the basement with 20 years of life that seemed to be lost?” Clare Liebe said.

They’re old slides of the past they wanted to share with future generations, including a trip to Yellowstone early in their marriage.

“The memories were amazing,” Clare Liebe said.

They found Gess’s business Photo Dr, and had him restore their photos as a Christmas present for their children.

“It’s, I’d say, as if we were able to go back to the same thing, which we’ll probably not be able do at this point of life but does recall wonderful memories,” Clare Liebe said. “That’s really the main reason, so we don’t lose the memories or history or genealogy of the family.”

Gess holds his family memories close, too. He has a tattoo of his son’s name, Zayden, on his forearm.

“He’s very inspiring,” Gess said. “I tell his story to everybody.”

Spending his first 14 months of life in the hospital, Zayden has already had 30-some surgeries, blood transfusions and chemotherapy treatments in his few years of life so far. Zayden is now an inspiration for Kevin to dive fulltime into his photo restoration business, which is something he can do while his son is in and out of the hospital.

“Really it is therapeutic for me, I think,” Gess said. “It gives me more time to give people more memories.”

It also gives Gess more time to collect his own memories with the people that matter the most.

“(Zayden) has been through it all, and he’s just chugging along. As he’s fighting, we’re going to fight with him,” he said. “This gives me an opportunity to spend time with him while he’s here.”

More information about Photo Dr can be found here.