How a Dropbox employee keeps memories of his late grandfather alive
Learn more about how Paolo Ertreo used Dropbox to create a digital treasure trove that he taps into whenever he needs a little inspiration.
Paolo Ertreo is an entirely sentimental person. When he got promoted to product design manager at Dropbox, he took screenshots of all the congratulatory Slack messages from his colleagues. December will mark his three-year anniversary with us, but his knack for getting the most out of cloud storage started long before he joined the company.
Born and raised in Genoa, Italy, Paolo uses Dropbox to preserve the memory of his American grandfather – including photos from his travels during World War II, letters, cards and voicemails. Whenever Paolo was feeling down, he always found comfort by revisiting the encouraging words of his grandfather. Now that his maternal grandfather, Paul, has passed on, these memories are more cherished than ever before.
Paolo’s American mother, Paula, and Italian father, Maurizio, met in the 1980s when they were both in the Navy. Paolo had been to the States many times with his mum and his older brother, Marco, when they visited Paula’s parents every other summer, staying for roughly four weeks each visit.
Paolo had always been close to Paul, but the relationship was rekindled and deepened when Paolo moved from Italy to the United States. After earning his degree in illustration and animation from Istituto Europeo di Design in Milan, Paolo landed a job at a video game company. Paolo started applying for jobs in the US and eventually moved to Florida, where he worked as a freelancer.
But Paul lived in southern California, so phone calls, cards and letters were an important part of how they stayed connected. Other family members sent cards and letters too, but Paul always left the most voicemails and sent the most cards.
‘I was new to the country. I was new to everything... I didn’t have a job and he was very good about sending cards via snail mail,’ Paolo said.
Paolo was lonely and sometimes depressed, but Paul was always there to encourage him and lift his spirits.
Paolo moved to San Francisco six months later to work at a mobile games ad tech company.
‘It got to the point where he and other family members would send me cards and I just wasn’t keeping them all because I was in a small studio and I didn’t want to hoard stuff, so I started scanning them and putting them in Dropbox,’ he said.
Paolo felt bad about throwing stuff out, but using his phone to scan everything and save it in Dropbox was the perfect solution.
He created a folder called Family Memories and had subfolders for other family members too, including his dad.
Paolo has essentially captured Paul’s life from the 1940s up until 2020, when he passed away from natural causes at 98. Paolo’s collection includes photos of a fresh-faced and shirtless Paul lounging on the beach where he was stationed in the Northern Mariana Islands, voice recordings of Paul sharing war stories and lots and lots of cards, including one that says, ‘Hang in there – you’ve got a lot going for you.’
Since they reconnected when Paul was already in his 90s, Paolo knew that he was documenting his grandfather’s life because he might not be around for much longer.
‘I created this archive and now I’m starting to enjoy it more,’ Paolo said. ‘It has more meaning now that he’s not here.’
Paolo, who recently welcomed a son, Arlo, is keeping his grandfather’s legacy alive to inspire him and help as he navigates life’s chapters. And thanks to technology, Paul will always be there for Paolo, whenever he needs him.