Obituaries and other forms of tribute


Death often takes us unaware, even when there has been an illness. And in a state of confusion, grief, and fatigue we are expected to attend to practical details, one of which may be encouraging the local paper to write an obituary (the essay-like story about the deceased written by a staff writer, not the paid-for death notice listing the surviving family members, etc.). In the past, papers like the New York Times and the Washington Post wrote obituaries mostly about the rich, the famous, and the important local dead. More recently, recognizing that the obituary page is the first page many people turn to in the morning (to see which friends have left this world), they have begun writing interesting stories about regular (albeit sometimes eccentric) people. Obituaries can and should be interesting stories, not boring brag fests. Here are some links to sites for fans of obituaries, to examples of interesting obituaries, and to related sites.

What's happening to the obit page?

Concerns on Space and Revenue Spur Growth of Paid Obituaries (Felicity Barringer, NY Times, 1-14-02) ''Space and revenue concerns led newspapers to run fewer, shorter obituaries, or shift them from a news item to a classified advertising revenue category," reported a researcher in a recent study. The trend toward paid obituaries is accelerating. The advertising department may handle paid obituaries. Staff may write obits for the newsworthy.
When Death Comes, and the Obituary Quickly Follows (David W. Dunlap, Times Insider, NY Times, 10-8-15) A behind-the-scenes look at how obituaries are prepared at the NY Times.
Obituaries for the Pre-Dead (Margalit Fox, NY Times, 8-29-14) The Times currently has about 1,700 obits for “pre-dead” people on file, ranging from a few hundred words (if you are boring) to more than 10 thousand (if you are rich).
• "The family isn't really your audience. I want people to read the obituary section because there's interesting stuff in there. If we write for the families, the families will read it when they lose somebody, but no one else will. I certainly have tried here to preserve the distinction between news material and classified advertising. It is the difference between biography, the business I'm in, and eulogy, which is what makes up most of the paids.'' ~ Bruce Keidan, the obituary editor of The Post-Gazette
Early Deadlines (Christopher Beam, Slate, 8-27-09) How far in advance do newspapers write obituaries? And who writes them? How many obits do they keep in the can? "By the time Gerald Ford died in December 2006, his obituary writer had been dead for 11 months."
Obituary for Newspaper Obituaries (Robin Heppell, FuneralFuturist.com, 2-19-09). Newspapers served for a century and more as a place to place and find obituaries. But newspapers got greedy, expecting ransom from families, and funeral directors began turning to other outlets, aided by Google. See Does Google Know that You Have Online Obits? (Robin Heppell, FuneralFuturist.com, 12-12-08)
Summing Up a Life: Meeting the Obituary’s Challenge (Chip Scanlan, Poynter, 4-9-03) The "feature obit" is "the basic news report fleshed out with biographical information, including anecdotes, descriptions, quotes, reminiscences. Although feature obits are usually limited to prominent, influential or famous people, a new form — dubbed the “common man” (and woman) feature obit — emerged in the 1980s."
A Death Notice for Obituaries? . Long-time political reporter James M. Naughton's critique of how the print media remember the dead. "If you're not already famous or notorious, don't expect original reporting for an obit, even at one of America's premier newspapers." Many newspapers are milking the public for paid obituaries, but good obituaries could actually increase readership in newspapers.
How to Improve Obituary Coverage (the Readership Institute). The RI studied the three main approaches to obituary coverage: all free newsroom-produced obits, all paid obits, or a mixture of the two. Newspapers cutting back on obit space are short-sighted because "obituaries -- along with community announcements and stories about ordinary people -- have the highest potential of all news items to grow readership."
Reviving Obituaries, Death Notices Before it’s Too Late (Rich Gordon, Poynter, 3-4-11). You can download a copy of the student report, "State of the American Obituary."
Facebook: A new way to mourn? (Michael Morrison, for the Calgary Herald, : "An interesting thing happened the days following the Virginia Tech shootings. All over the Facebook community, groups were created to remember those who had been lost in the States' latest gun tragedy.
Life Lessons from the Newtown Obituaries (Jen Singer, Momma Said, 1-4-13). "For adults, obits are about what they did. But for children, they’re about who they were. It’s about their spirit, that nebulous thing we sense when we’re around people we love and enjoy. As a result, the obituaries for the children of Newtown could end up less of a reminder of how they died than a lesson on how to live." Instead of items such as “She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oakland Chamber of Commerce," Jen wants something more like “James would often sing at the top of his lungs and once asked, ‘How old do I have to be to sing on a stage?’”
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Write your own obituary


Reflection Pages for Writing Your Own Obituary (Nora Cedarwood Young) This is a planning tool only. You don't have to use all the information, nor do others using it to write an obit about you.
Are you ready to write your own obituary? (Sean Braswell, USA Today, 2-15-15)
Write your own obituary and get your life story right (Melissa Kossler Dutton, AP, TheStar.com, 10-8-16). Selfie obituaries are a growing trend for those who want to have the final say. “Who knows all the parts of your life? Your children know you as a parent. Your co-workers know you professionally. Your spouse probably knows very little about your life at work. They say your siblings are the people with you your whole life,” says Sarah White. “I wouldn’t leave this up to my siblings. They don’t know anything about me.”
Having the Last Say: Capturing Your Legacy in One Small Story by Alan Gelb.
Your Story, Your Words: How to Write Your Own Obituary (Katie Falzone, Legacy.com)
Obit Kit
Many get in the last words on their own lives (Boston Globe, 8-18-12)
How to Write Your Own Obituary (Jim T. Miller, HuffPost, 12-28-15)
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Self-written obituaries

Many get in the last words on their own lives (Beth Teitell, Boston Globe, 8-17-12).
The self-penned obituary: Is this labor of love a trend or a movement? (Molly Gorny, Digital Dying, Funeralwise.com)
Malcolm Wells, in his own words and images, and then in the Courier Post, as the "father of modern earth-sheltered architecture."
Peter Worthington in his own words (Toronto Sun, 5-14-13). The Toronto Sun's founding editor's fascinating obit about himself and his daring adventures as a reporter.
Self-Written Obituary of Mom Who Lost Cancer Battle Will Melt Your Heart (Sydney Lupkin, Good Morning America, 4-2-15) Phillips, 69, of Orange Park, Florida, died just 29 days after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but her sassy personality lives on in what has become a viral self-written obituary. Read Emily DeBrayda Phillips's self-penned obituary. Another story about her: 'I was born, I blinked and it was over': Woman writes sassy, compassionate obit before dying
Gloria Louise (Aertker) Fralish. Her auto-obituary in The Sentinel (Pennsylvania)
Elizabeth Sleasman's obit with a message After the dates part, she describes her life of addiction to alcohol and drugs and advises not to take the path she did. Very persuasive.

Homeland actor James Rebhorn wrote his own touching obituary (Joel Eastwood, Toronto Star, 3-25-14). Here's his self-written obit, focused on his family His Life, According to Jim (St. Paul Lutheran Church, 3-24-14). Here's the NY Times obit, focused on his career: James Rebhorn, an Actor Often Playing a Man in a Suit, Dies at 65
Delaware man’s self-written obituary goes viral (AP, on Washington Post, 3-13-14). “Walter George Bruhl Jr. of Newark and Dewey Beach DE is a dead person..."
Dying With Dignity and the Final Word on Her Life (Michael Winerip, NY Times, 8-5-13). One of the "few advantages" of dying of cancer, Jane Catherine Lotter wrote in the Seattle Times, "is that you have time to write your own obituary." Here's her full obit.
Man writes his own obituary, comes clean about not really having Ph.D., stealing safe (Elizabeth Chuck, NBC News, 7-18-12)
More Turn to Colorful, Confessing Self-Written Obituaries (Abby D. Phillip, ABC News, 8-19-12). Turn on the mute button to skip the Viagra commercials.
'He has had a number of other wives recently, none of which were his' (Steve Nolan, Mail Online, 6-4-13) Obituary of smooth-talking veteran John E. Holden goes viral.
Val Patterson of Utah uses his self-written, light-hearted obituary to confess his sins (CBS News, 7-17-12)
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Online obituary and memorial websites

The landscape for obituaries is changing constantly. This list is incomplete and makes no attempt to evaluate sites.
Obituaries Research Guide, USA (from DeathIndexes.com) Online obituary indexes, death notices, memorials, and finding aids
Find obituary sites for 350 newspapers with tips on placing obits and creating tributes (Legacy.com)
Obituary Daily Times (index only, to historical newspapers, Rootsweb/​Ancestry.com)
Online Obituary Sites: They’re Not All the Same! (Jared Atchison, Online Obituary Reviews, 10-6-13)
Legacy.com (provider of online obituaries and guestbooks for many newspapers)
The Remembrance Project Lives of those among us. (WBUR radio, a prominent Boston radio station, soliciting obits of New Englanders).
Obits for Life (only obituary listings posted through supporting funeral homes are featured on this site)
Respectance
Valley of Life
Tributes. Includes Obituaries in the news

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About obituaries and obituary writing


Advance obits. When Death Comes, and the Obituary Quickly Follows (David W. Dunlap, Times Insider, NY Times, 10-8-15). Within an hour after Apple's CEO announced Steve Jobs's death, Oct. 5, 2011, The Times had a 3,500-word obituary on its website, by John Markoff, with Steve Lohr. Mr. Markoff began his first draft in August 2007. “People are always dying in The Times who don’t seem to die in other papers, and they die at greater length and maybe even with a little more grace,” the columnist James Reston wrote in 1962. "To achieve this pre-eminence, The Times has long made a practice of keeping a deep reservoir of advance obits ready, so that no matter how prominent the subject — nor how close to deadline she might slip the bonds of the earth — we will be ready with a sweeping biography."
Advance obits, humor. Paul Noth cartoon in New Yorker about advance obits.
Lessons from "Obit," the Documentary (Pat McNees's blog, 11-15-16) Obit writers at the New York Times try to catch the arc of the person’s life—to capture someone “at the precise point where he or she became history.” How did they get to be how they are and where they are. They try to weave a historical spell, try to make the dead live again.
For 'New York Times' Obit Writers, 'Death Is Never Solicitous Of A Deadline' (Fresh Air, NPR, 4-27-17). A delightful extension of what you learn in the documentary "Obit." Dave Davies interviews Margalit Fox and Bruce Weber, of the Times obit desk, at length.
Fox: In "a news obituary of 800 or a thousand words, there might be one or two sentences about the death and the other 98 percent of this remarkable narrative is every inch about the life....And I think the other great attraction is we are the most purely narrative genre in any daily paper. If you think about how an obit is structured, we are taxed with taking our subjects from cradle to grave, and that gives obits a built-in narrative arc, the arc of how someone lived his or her life. And who doesn't want to start the day reading a really good story?"
Weber: "Factually speaking, obituaries are the toughest beat on the paper." Fox: "And obits by definition are minefields for corrections because they are so larded of necessity with names and dates, the two most common and most easy things to get wrong, so we have to be more careful than it is humanly possible to be."
Toughest of all is an obit for a celebrity who dies unexpectedly early in life but late in the day (as actor Philip Seymour Hoffman did), with no advance obit on file, so staff writers have to scramble to crank something out in a couple of hours. Be thoughtful: Leave behind obit information the family can provide should you be one of the honored few the newspaper writes an obit for.
Adventures in the death 'zine biz (Steve Miller's address delivered to the Third Great Obituary Writers Conference, June 3, 2001, Las Vegas, NM)
The art of the obituary: It’s a dying one (former obit writer Steve Chawkins, Nieman Storyboard, 2-21-17) ' Not so long ago, a full-time staff of more than a half-dozen editors and writers – plus freelancers and a librarian — worked long hours putting together news obits for the Los Angeles Times. Now the department has been pared down to one beleaguered editor, who writes when he’s not busy seeking help from other overworked staffers. Great obits are hard to do and harder to define — but they’re easy to spot. They’re concise, evocative and written with a sense of authority...Obits are often funny, because that’s life....Ledes are everything in obits, whether they’re four-paragraph anecdotes or more traditional, just-the-facts-ma’am declaratory sentences. Often, they’re supplied by the irony or contradictions inherent in people’s lives.

Ever wonder why the New York Times always details cause of death in an obit's second or third paragraph, citing a reliable source for the information? To avoid mistakes like these two:
Katharine Sergava, the Star Of 'Oklahoma!' Ballet, Dies (Jack Anderson, NY Times, 12-4-2003) Correction Appended (edited here): December 5, 2003, Friday An obituary yesterday erroneously reported the death of Katharine Sergava, a dancer and actress who portrayed the dream-ballet version of Laurey, the heroine, in the original production of ''Oklahoma!'' Ms. Sergava, who is 94 and has lived in Manhattan for many years, was hospitalized in November and is now in a nursing home.
Itsy-Bitsy Bikini, Big Mistake: Paul Vance Is Alive and Well (Jeff Leeds, NY Times, 9-28-06) Obituaries editor Bill McDonald explains why in this Q&A piece in an interesting Times series: Talk to the Newsroom: Obituaries Editor Bill McDonald (NY Times, 9-25-06). Can one buy a prime-time obituary in the Times? No. In that interview, McDonald explains, " "The paid notices are classified ads. They're gathered and placed in the paper or on the Web by the classified advertising department, which operates independently of the news department.... despite any misconceptions to the contrary, no one pays for an obit that appears as a news story."
The Art of the Obituary (listen to Walter Cronkite, on NPR)
A Woman Like Me, Lesléa Newman's classic piece (for Obit Magazine) on watching obits for the woman who dies childless. ("Will I suffer? Will I become helpless and undignified? Will there be anyone at my bedside to pat my hand and tell me to look towards the light?") Alas, Obit Magazine seems to have disappeared into the ether!
British obits compared with American obits (Adam Bernstein, "That Was Some Lady"), Post Mortem, WashPost 9-27-07
Dying With Dignity and the Final Word on Her Life (Michael Winerip, Our Generation, NY Times, 8-5-13). Those closest to Jane Lotter recalled her as spunky, self-aware, and wise beyond her 60 years. So when she told her family that she planned to write her own obituary, they weren't surprised.
The Facebook Obituary: A Helpful Guide to Mourning Celebrities (Michael Estrin, Situation Normal)
Nearly everyone gets an obituary; if not, journalists can and should still verify deaths (Steve Buttry, The Buttry Diary, 1-17-13)
Obituary Writing in the Selfie Age ( James R. Hagerty, Wall Street Journal, 7-20-16) Workshops on writing your own obituary appeal to those of us who worry that our survivors will leave out facts and details about our lives that in many cases they may not even know about -- or that they will fail to capture the essence of our lives. You can probably find a workshop (or a writer) near you, to help you write yours.
When death comes in installments (Jack Shafer, Reuters, 7-12-13) Tongue-in-cheek on obit timing: "The lengthy illness of a former or current world leader tends to agitate the hard-core news hounds. Their attitude: if you’re going, please go. As Liebling observed, only 10 percent of the obituary will contain any real news, anyway, the remainder is just a history lesson or clip job."


Facebook: A new way to mourn? (Michael Morrison, for the Calgary Herald, : "An interesting thing happened the days following the Virginia Tech shootings. All over the Facebook community, groups were created to remember those who had been lost in the States' latest gun tragedy.

Good Bye! the late, unorthodox Journal of Contemporary Obituaries (archives 1996-2002)

How to Improve Obituary Coverage (the Readership Institute). The RI studied the three main approaches to obituary coverage: all free newsroom-produced obits, all paid obits, or a mixture of the two. Newspapers cutting back on obit space are short-sighted because "obituaries -- along with community announcements and stories about ordinary people -- have the highest potential of all news items to grow readership."

Life Lessons from the Newtown Obituaries (Jen Singer, Momma Said, 1-4-13). "For adults, obits are about what they did. But for children, they’re about who they were. It’s about their spirit, that nebulous thing we sense when we’re around people we love and enjoy. As a result, the obituaries for the children of Newtown could end up less of a reminder of how they died than a lesson on how to live." Instead of items such as “She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oakland Chamber of Commerce," Jen wants something more like “James would often sing at the top of his lungs and once asked, ‘How old do I have to be to sing on a stage?’”

Lives Lived, on the Facts & Arguments page (every day the Globe and Mail's Lives Lived column features someone who has died)

A Lurid Tale From 1857 Is Revived in Granite (Andy Newman, NY Times, 9-19-07). A new headstone marks the burial place of Emma Cunningham, acquitted of killing her lover.

Margaret Thatcher and misapplied death etiquette (Glenn Greenwald, Guardian, 4-8-13)

Obit magazine (samples online were good reading but the magazine seems to have bit the dust)

Obituary forum, blog for the Society of Professional Obituary Writers, spinoff from Life on the Death Beat

Obituary writing resources (Neil Reisner's helpful site)

Obituary Search Engines and Indexes at Libraries, Universities and Societies (Ancestor Search)

Orphans (Steve Silberman, in Fray, issue 3, on Sex & Death). Silberman's absorbing tribute to his father.

Post Mortem (interesting Washington Post blog about "the end of the story," by Joe Holley, Patricia Sullivan, Adam Bernstein, and Matt Schudel)

Society of Professional Obituary Writers (for folks who write obituaries for a living)

Someone Dies. But That Is Only the Beginning. (Arthur S. Brisbane, NY Times, 4-14-12) The Times Public Editor on the Gray Lady's process of selecting who the paper will write obits about, and how they write about them. ""Obituaries, as the Times presents them, are not necessarily efforts to capture the totality of our subjects' lives," [Paul] Vitello said in an e-mail. "The focus is on capturing the aspects of their lives that most affected history, or the culture, or the fabric of a profession in which they were highly regarded."

Why Run an In Memoriam Notice? (Florence Isaacs, Legacy Connect, 7-27-15)

Writing your own obituary. Many get in the last words on their own lives ( Beth Teitell, Boston Globe, 8-17-12).

Yvonne Brill and the Beef-Stroganoff Illusion (Amy Davidson, Close Read, New Yorker blog, 4-1-13). There was much to-do about a NY Times obit about a woman rocket scientist, which started thus: "She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. 'The world’s best mom,' her son Matthew said." Two items among many:
Obit Gaffe: In rocket scientist Yvonne Brill’s obit, was it so bad to mention the beef stroganoff? (Katie Roiphe, Slate, 4-2-13)
‘The Finkbeiner Test’ (Curtis Brainard, CJR, 3-22-13) Seven rules to avoid gratuitous gender profiles of female scientists


Mona Ackerman had the gift (Richard Cohen, about the woman he lived with and loved, Washington Post, 12-10-12)

Margaret Atwood's tribute to poet and teacher Jay MacPherson (delivered at Victoria College 6-11-12)

Lili Bermant, who died after a hiking accident, at age 83, was interviewed by the Yiddish Book Center 11-10-10, thank goodness. You can hear her online.

Yogi Berra, Yankee Who Built His Stardom 90 Percent on Skill and Half on Wit, Dies at 90 (Bruce Weber, NY Times, 9-23-15) This long obit about a beloved figure "got a wonderful amount of attention" and "the reader mail was hilarious," says Weber. "It was very satisfying. And it was really a lot of fun to write."

Doris Betts, Novelist in Southern Tradition, Dies at 79 (Paul Vitello, NY Times, 4-24-12)

Remembering Detroit's Shakespeare, Richard Bissell (Katherine Fischer, Telegraph Herald, Dubuque, Iowa, 6-7-13, posted on Elmore Leonard's website)

Michael "Flathead" Blanchard (Denver Post) "Weary of reading obituaries noting someone's courageous battle with death, Mike wanted it known that he died as a result of being stubborn, refusing to follow doctors' orders and raising hell for more than six decades. He enjoyed booze, guns, cars and younger women until the day he died."

Jimmy Breslin, Legendary New York City Newspaper Columnist, Dies at 88 (Dan Barry, NY Times, 3-19-17) "Jimmy Breslin, the New York City newspaper columnist and best-selling author who leveled the powerful and elevated the powerless for more than 50 years with brick-hard words and a jagged-glass wit, died at his home in Manhattan. He was 88, and until very recently, was still pushing somebody’s buttons with two-finger jabs at his keyboard....With prose that was savagely funny, deceptively simple and poorly imitated, Mr. Breslin created his own distinct rhythm in the hurly-burly music of newspapers....Mr. Breslin was counted among the writers credited with inventing “New Journalism,” in which novelistic techniques are used to inject immediacy and narrative tension into the news....[he] scoffed at this supposed contribution, saying that he and others had merely introduced Dickens-like storytelling to a new generation." Here's his famous column on the gravedigger. Clifton Pollard: Digging JFK Grave Was His Honor and Corey Kilgannon's story about the second time he dug a grave for JFK: Breslin and Son of Kennedy Gravedigger Recall the Famous Job (NY Times, 11-22-13). Do read Jonathan Alter's great profile in the New Yorker, Jimmy Breslin and the Lost Voice of the People (3-20-17).

Dr. Joyce Brothers, On-Air Psychologist Who Made TV House Calls, Dies at 85 (Margalit Fox, NY Times, 3-13-13). "Dr. Brothers arrived in the American consciousness (or, more precisely, the American unconscious) at a serendipitous time: the exact historical moment when cold war anxiety, a greater acceptance of talk therapy and the widespread ownership of television sets converged. Looking crisply capable yet eminently approachable in her pastel suits and pale blond pageboy, she offered gentle, nonthreatening advice on sex, relationships, family and all manner of decent behavior."

Walter George Bruhl Jr., DuPont Co. retiree (CapeGazette.com, 3-11-14). This self-pinned obit went viral.

Leslie Buck, Designer of Iconic Coffee Cup, Dies at 87 (Margalit Fox, NY Times, 4-29-10) Laszlo Büch survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald, landed in New York, became marketing director of a paper cup company, and to crack New York City's hot-cup market, designed The Amphora, a classical cup designed to attract the city's many Greek diners. You can still see them all over New York.

A tribute to Judith Butcher (Society for Editors and Proofreaders). This tribute to the author of Copy-editing: The Cambridge Handbook for Editors, Copy-editors and Proofreaders provides a mini-history of how sub-editing (copyediting) developed in England. "The unreliable and costly tradition of trusting the printer’s readers to pick up errors after typesetting was replaced by a methodical system of preparing manuscripts for typesetting and eliminating errors in advance."

Ann Caracristi, who cracked codes, and the glass ceiling, at NSA, dies at 94 (Martin Weil, Washington Post, 1-11-16) One of her strengths was reconstructing enemy code books.
Peter Carson (obit by Peter Mayer, Guardian, 1-24-13) Former Penguin editor-in-chief who guided the publisher into the corporate era

George Carlin, Comic Who Chafed at Society and Its Constraints, Dies at 71 (Mel Watkins and Bruce Webster, NY Times 6-24-08)

Judi Chamberlin. Advocate For People With Mental Illnesses Dies (Joseph Schapiro, Morning Edition, NPR, 1-19-10) She joined a little radical ragtag group, Mental Patients Liberation Front, and fought for civil rights for people with mental illness. She used "mad pride" as her e-mail address and took the pejorative out of the word "mad."

Leslie Ray Charping (a bluntly honest Texas obit: 'No services will be held, there will be no prayers for eternal peace and no apologizes to the family he tortured. Leslie's remains will be cremated and kept in the barn until "Ray", the family donkey's wood shavings run out.'

Leonard Cohen, Epic and Enigmatic Songwriter, Is Dead at 82 (Larry Rohter, NY Times, 11-10-16) He turned to songwriting in hopes of expanding the audience for his poetry. In 2008, Mr. Cohen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which described him as “one of the few artists in the realm of popular music who can truly be called poets” and praised him for having “raised the songwriting bar.”


Jeffrey H. Cohen (Legacy.com). Daily Kos (1-21-16) turned this one viral with "a real beauty of a piece. It covers his life as a chiropractor who ended up with a business that included many sports luminaries, olympic and professional. The final line is probably the best quote on the internet today: 'In lieu of flowers, please do not vote for Donald Trump'"

Madeleine P. Cosman, 68, Medieval Expert, Dies (Margalit Fox, NY Times, 3-19-06) See Ms. Fox's comments about the ending of this obit, in this story about the process of obit writing.

Merce Cunningham, Dance Visionary, Dies (Alastair Macaulay, NY Times, 7-27-09)

Roger Ebert In Review: A 'Fresh Air' Survey . This potpourri of old interviews with and by Roger Ebert ran 4-5-13, at a time when many of us were saddened by his death. Here are a few of the moving (and charming) items that appeared (or reappeared by link on Facebook) that week.
I do not fear death (Roger Ebert, Salon, 9-15-11). "I will pass away sooner than most people who read this, but that doesn't shake my sense of wonder and joy"
Roger Ebert Hails Human Existence As 'A Triumph' (The Onion's tongue-in-cbeek salute, 4-4-13). CHICAGO—Calling the overall human experience “poignant,” “thought-provoking,” and a “complete tour de force,” film critic Roger Ebert praised existence Thursday as “an audacious and thrilling triumph.”
Filmmakers Remember Roger Ebert (Forrest Wickman collects social media tributes for Slate, 4-5-13)

Daniel J. Edelman, founded influential public relations firm (Emily Langer, Washington Post, 1-15-13) For Butterball, he dreamed up the Turkey Talk-Line. For the Toni Co, he used six sets of twins for the campaign “Which Twin Has the Toni?” He helped promote architect Maya Lin’s once-controversial design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Nora Ephron Dies at 71; Writer and Filmmaker With a Genius for Humor (Charles McGrath, New York Times 6-26-12). More on aging and her own death, including her own words:
Nora Ephron's Hollywood Ending (Alessandra Stanley, NY Times, 6-27-12)
Regrets? I wish I'd worn a bikini every day for a year: Nora Ephron, who died this week, passes on the advice she wished she'd known sooner (Nora Ephron, Daily Mail, 6-29-12, extract from her book I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman)
'I Remember Nothing': Nora Ephron, Aging Gratefully (NPR, Morning Edition, interview about her book I Remember Nothing: and Other Reflections
Charlie Rose's interview with Nora Ephron in 2010

John Fairfax, Who Rowed Across Oceans, Dies at 74 (Margalit Fox, NY Times, 2-18-12)

Shulamith Firestone. Death of a Revolutionary (Susan Faludi, The New Yorker, 4-15-13). Feminist Shulamith Firestone helped to create a new society. But she couldn’t live in it. A moving and fascinating piece about a powerful woman and the society-changing but flawed feminist movement.

Tribute to Emily Fenichel

Gloria Louise (Aertker) Fralish (The Sentinel, Pennsylvania, 9-29-14) Written by her son.

Arlene Friedman--a career mentor--has died (Gregory Mowery, Leaving New York, 9-4-12). Also about Arlene: Arlene Friedman Shepherd: The Life She Loved (McNees, Writers & Editors, 12-28-12). This links to the Times end-of-year series.

Ina Ginsburg, socialite who wrote about D.C. elite for Warhol’s magazine, dies at 98 (Adam Bernstein, Washington Post 11-9-14)

John Cooper Fitch, Glamorous Racer With a Flair for Danger, Dies at 95 (obit by Douglas Martin, NYTimes, 10-31-12), as recommended in Living well is the best revenge (Ask Amy Daily, 11-2-12)

Remembering Ruth Graham (Judy Bachrach, winner of Obit Writer award)

Alexander Grothendieck, Math Enigma, Dies at 86 (Bruce Weber and Julie Rehmeyer, NY Times, 11-14-14)

Ruth Gruber, a Fearless Chronicler of the Jewish Struggle, Dies at 105 (Robert D. McFadden, NY Times, 11-17-16) An intrepid photojournalist and author who documented Stalin’s gulags, life in Nazi Germany and the plight of Jewish refugees intercepted by the British on the infamous passage of the Exodus to Palestine in 1947.

Oscar Handlin, Historian Who Chronicled U.S. Immigration, Dies at 95 (Paul Vitello, NY Times, 9-23-11) In a piece about the process of writing obits: "Perhaps not the most intriguing life, he thought, after one day’s reporting. On day two, though, Mr. Vitello found one more person to talk to, someone who saw how Mr. Handlin’s writings had overturned the conventional narrative of the day — of America as frontier. “We are a nation of immigrants — that was this guy’s concept,” Mr. Vitello said. “Before that, we were a nation of conquistadores. It was a very big deal.” He added: “If I had gone with what I had the first day, I would have had a bunch of quotes that were respectful, and a bunch of books. But I would not have had this great idea about how this person changed the way we look at America.”

Margaret Heldt, Hairdresser Who Built the Beehive, Dies at 98 (Bruce Weber, NY Times, 6-13-16) 'One reason for its initial popularity was that the hair spray held it in place for days at a time. In a 2011 interview with the British newspaper The Daily Mail, Ms. Heldt said, “I used to tell my clients, ‘I don’t care what your husband does from the neck down, but I don’t want them to touch you from the neck up.’ ” ' The delightful story of a hairdresser's inventive creation of a hairstyle landmark.

Columnist Nat Hentoff dies at 91 (Hillel Italie, AP, 1-7-17) Nat Hentoff, an eclectic columnist, critic, novelist and agitator dedicated to music, free expression and defying the party line, died Saturday at age 91.

One Life: Kate (Katherine Hepburn, as remembered by the National Portrait Gallery) There's no reason an ordinary person's life can't be remembered in this same way, with great photos and more details than the normal obit page allows that one could afford.

Billie Holiday Dies Here at 44; Jazz Singer Had Wide Influence (New York Times, 7-18-59)

Betty James, Who Named the Slinky Toy, Is Dead at 90 (Dennis Hevesi, NY Times, 11-24-08) Her husband invented it, but he left.

Antoinette K-Doe, 66, Who Turned Club Into Shrine to Husband, Dies (William Grimes, NYTimes, 2-28-09)

Alice E. Kober, 43; Lost to History No More (Margalit Fox, NY Times, 5-11-13) "As an obituary writer at The Times, I have the great, improbable pleasure of reconstituting the lives of interesting people. And few people, it turns out, are as interesting as the influential obscure." Despite the efforts of investigators around the globe, Linear B (an unknown language in an unknown script) was one of the world’s great unsolved puzzles. An amateur was credited with figuring out that it was an early dialect of Greek, but he did so based on the painstaking studies of this overworked, underpaid Brooklyn College classics professor.

Renee Zlotnick Kraft, Washington fur heiress (Adam Bernstein, Washington Post, 8-20-06). Socialite Added Flair, Style and Humor to D.C. Events. (Her daughter Bayla Kraft is a good friend of mine.)

Ethel Lang, Britain's oldest person, dies aged 114 K's longest-surviving person - the last living subject of Queen Victoria - dies in Barnsley nursing home (Victoria Ward, The Telegraph, 1-16-15) Mrs Bates said her mother “loved all kinds of dancing”, which she enjoyed until she broke her hip at the age of 98. However, she still managed to dance at her 106th birthday.

The Legend of Chris Kyle (Michael J. Mooney, D Magazine, 3-18-13). The deadliest sniper in U.S. history performed near miracles on the battlefield. Then he had to come home.

Eugene Lang, Investor Who Made College Dreams a Reality, Dies at 98 (Enid Nemy and Joseph Berger, NY Times, 4-8-17) He will be best remembered for his impulsive gesture in June 1981, when he was invited to deliver the commencement address to 61 sixth graders at Public School 121 on East 103rd Street. "“it dawned on me that the commencement banalities I planned were completely irrelevant. So I began by telling them that one of my most memorable experiences was Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, and that everyone should have a dream,” he said. “Then I decided to tell them I’d give a scholarship to every member of the class admitted to a four-year college.” His "I Have a Dream" Foundation "established a year-round program of academic support with a mentor and tutoring for each student, and sponsored cultural and recreational outings." See also Former Student Remembers Life Of Education Donor Eugene Lang (Audie Cornish talks with Juan Martinez, one of the many thousands of students ("dreamers") the philanthropist Eugene Lang helped send to college.

Antonia Larroux (paid death notice, NY Times, 3-3,4-13). Affectionate humor for a woman who clearly would have wanted it that way.

Meadowlark Lemon Dies at 83; Harlem Globetrotters’ Dazzling Court Jester (Bruce Weber, NY Times, 12-28-15)

Elmore Leonard, Who Refined the Crime Thriller, Dies at 87 (Marilyn Stasio, NY Times, 8-20-13). Here are his 10 Rules for Writing: "Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle" (NYTimes, 7-16-01)

David Levine. Starting With Lines, but Ending With Truth (Michael Kimmelman, An Appraisal, Art & Design, NY Times, 10-30-09)

The Life and Death of Anthony Lewis, a 'Tribune of the Law' (Andrew Cohen, The Atlantic, 3-25-13). The author of Gideon's Trumpet changed the way legal issues are covered and understood in America.

William Liebenow, 97, Dies; PT Boat Skipper Rescued Kennedy (Daniel E. Slotnick, NY Times, 2-28-17) "Under the cover of darkness on Aug. 7, 1943, Lt. William Liebenow skippered his patrol torpedo boat into enemy waters in the South Pacific. His mission was to rescue the sailors of PT-109 who had survived for days on inhospitable islands after a Japanese destroyer had rammed their boat, splitting it in two and killing two crewmen. Among the 11 crew members who survived the sinking of PT-109 was a bunkmate of the lieutenant’s, the boat’s 26-year-old skipper, John F. Kennedy."

Jane Catherine Lotter's paid self-written obituary (Seattle Times), which went viral (see Huff Post story and follow-up.

Edward Lowe Dies at 75; a Hunch Led Him to Create Kitty Litter (Robert McG. Thomas Jr, NY Times, 10-6-96)

Norma Lyon, the ‘Butter-Cow Lady,’ Dies at 81 (Paul Vitello, NY Times, 6-27-11) ABOUT THE OBIT: "Appreciating a life in the context of its own time is essential. [In this obit, Mr. Vitello] noted it wasn’t just her quirky story that made Norma Lyon interesting. He saw her as a woman of her time (born in 1929), with an artistic bent but few career paths open. So she became the official sculptor, in butter, of cows — and once, of a diorama of the Last Supper — at the Iowa State Fair." ~ from Someone Dies--But That Is Only the Beginning (about the process of obit writing)

Clare Marantz. Check out these articles by her daughter and three grandchildren: Choosing Not to Choose (Robin Marantz Henig, The New Old Age, New York Times, 4-30-09); How do you explain the internet to your grandmother? (Jess Zimmerman, The Guardian, 11-25-14); Eight Voicemails from My Grandmother, Who Is Very Upset About the Apparent Death of My Career (Samantha Henig, The Awl, 10-1-14); and Sure and Certain Hope (Andrew Marantz, Killing the Buddha).

Graham Mason (The Telegraph). "GRAHAM MASON, the journalist who has died aged 59, was in the 1980s the drunkest man in the Coach and Horses, the pub in Soho where, in the half century after the Second World War, a tragicomedy was played out nightly by its regulars." (Jack Shafer's favorite obit.)

William Freddie McCullough

Colleen McCullough dies at 77; author of 'Thorn Birds,' mysteries (Steve Chawkins, Los Angeles Times, 1-29-15)

The New York Times Book of the Dead: 320 Print and 10,000 Digital Obituaries of Extraordinary People, ed. by William McDonald

Mike Nichols.Simon Callow pays tribute to film-maker Mike Nichols (The Guardia, 11-29-14) Their first meeting, a script reading for Postcards from the Edge, felt like a reunion.

Obits from the Telegraph (which show a distinctive U.K. obit style)

Lana Peters, Stalin’s Daughter, Dies at 85 (Douglas Martin, NY Times, 11-28-11) "Her three successive names were signposts on a twisted, bewildering road that took her from Stalin’s Kremlin, where she was the “little princess,” to the West in a celebrated defection, then back to the Soviet Union in a puzzling homecoming, and finally to decades of obscurity, wandering and poverty."

Otto Petersen, the Voice of Vulgarity, Dies at 53 (Margalit Fox, NY Times, 4-15-14). A ventriloquist, the flesh-and-blood half of Otto and George, a comedy team renowned for vulgarity. George Dudley, his wooden companion of four decades, handled the rough stuff.

John Platt, C.I.A. Officer Who Befriended K.G.B. Agent, Dies at 80 (James Risen, NY Times, 2-6-17). Mr. Platt, trying to recruit a Cold War foe to spy for the United States, succeeded only in becoming friends with him.

Portraits of Grief. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, the New York Times published these short biographical sketches as a way to remember the lives of victims of the event. Ten years later, the Times revisited families to learn how they have coped, changed and carried on since that day: The Reckoning . Selected portraits rotate on a regular basis.

Marion Pritchard, Dutch rescuer of Jewish children during the Holocaust, dies at 96 (Emily Langer, Washington Post, 12-20-16) “It was a beautiful spring morning, and it was a street I had known since I had been born, and all of a sudden you see little kids picked up by their pigtails or by a leg and thrown over the side of a truck,” Mrs. Pritchard said in an interview published in the volume “Voices From the Holocaust” by Harry James Cargas. “You stop but you can’t believe it.”

Lou Reed (1942-2013) Outsider Whose Dark, Lyrical Vision Helped Shape Rock ’n’ Roll (Ben Ratliff, NY Times, 10-27-13). Or listen to Terry Gross interview Bill Bentley, Reed's publicist from 1988 to 2004: Never Back Down: Fresh Air Remembers Lou Reed (10-29-13, with transcript and excerpts from interviews with members of the Velvet Underground. And here's what his wife, Laurie Anderson, posted in the Easthampton Star.

Willie Reed, who risked his life to testify in the Emmett Till murder trial, dies at 76 (Emily Langer, Washington Post 7-24-13). Reed risked his life at 18 to appear as a surprise witness in the prosecution of the white men accused of the crime. After fleeing Mississippi for his safety nearly 60 years ago, he lived in Chicago under a different name — first in secrecy and later in relative obscurity.

Janet Reno, First Woman to Serve as U.S. Attorney General, Dies at 78 (Carl Hulse, NY Times, 11-7-16) She rose from a rustic life on the edge of the Everglades to become attorney general of the United States — the first woman to hold the job — and her eight years in that office placed her in the middle of some of the most divisive episodes of the Bill Clinton presidency. Compare this with Stephanie Hanes's obit: Janet Reno, former U.S. attorney general, dies at 78 (WaPo, 11-7-16). Two different approaches to an interesting life.

Dick Rich, Who Helped Redefine TV Advertising, Dies at 84 (Paul Vitello, NY Times, 12-16-14) Cofounder of an advertising firm "that helped define the freewheeling spirit of television advertising in the 1960s," Mr. Rich "created two fast-paced, trendsetting spots" that increased sales for their clients and "were funny enough to bear repeated watching." One was for Alka Seltzer, "No Matter What Shape Your Stomach's In," and the other for the extra-long Benson and Hedges cigarette. His ads depended on images, not slogans; his test: “W.I.W.I.J.: Will It Work In Japan.”

Jack Robbins: idler, recluse, reprobate (1942-2016) (video, in 7 parts, on YouTube). The kind of memorial service that makes you laugh and remember the real person, with affection and respect. A big moviegoer, he told his wife Sonia in his final days, first, "I feel like a character in a right-to-die movie," and days later that he felt like he was in a movie "that had gone on too long....He wanted to say 'Cut,' but he couldn't because it wasn't his movie."

Jerry Robinson, Godfather of a Comic-Book Villain, Dies at 89 (Dennis Hevesi, NY Times, 12-8-11)


Oliver Sacks. Remembering Oliver Sacks, A Pioneer Of Narrative Medicine (Rita Charon, Health Affairs blog, 9-30-15) What must it have been like to be one of the patients he wrote about? "He entered the narrative world of his subject with his curiosity opened wide. Probably more important, he entered with the conviction that he could make sense of what he perceived. He was convinced that if he took enough time and discernment, he would be able to see the meaning of what to others seemed bizarre or crazy."

Toshi Seeger, Wife of Folk-Singing Legend, Dies at 91 (Douglas Martin, NY Times, 7-11-13)

Ruth M. Siems, Inventor of Stuffing, Dies at 74 (Margalit Fox, NY Times, 11-23-05) "Stove Top made it possible to have the stuffing without the turkey, probably something no cook would ever have dreamed of but people eating Thanksgiving dinner might well have thought of: 'Take away everything else; just leave me here with the stuffing!' It's kind of like eating the chocolate chips without the cookies."

John Simon, Tireless Editor of Grant’s Papers, Dies at 75 (Bruce Weber, NY Times, 7-10-08) In editing of the papers of Ulysses S. Grant, Mr. Simon created a new standard for the organization of historical documents. He "changed the nature of documentary editing, bringing the perspective of a biographer rather than a cataloger to the enterprise....He matched incoming correspondence with outgoing, so researchers would have a complete episode. He included editorial commentary that was more substantial than footnotes. He wrote introductions to each volume.”

Charles Stough of the ‘Burned Out Newspapercreatures Guild’ (BONG) passes away (Charles Apple, 11-23-11). See also Charles Senour "Charley" Stough II (Dayton Daily News obit). Died Nov. 22, 2011. The Bong columns as of 6-16-16 were archived on Topica. Stough wrote the author of Warm Spit: A Novel of Texas Crime and Culture.

Roger W. Straus Adored A Rascal--And So Did I (Philip Weiss, Observer.com, 6-7-04). "Roger was a great publisher. Farrar, Straus & Giroux was a noble holdout. Isaac Bashevis Singer. Derek Wolcott. Etc. But to know Roger, and love him, wasn’t really about Literature and Culture. I’m trying to remember if I ever saw him wield a pen. Roger loved pleasure and fun and mischief, Roger fled bores like the plague and then told you about them. Roger never had a pious sober or correct thought in the three years that I hung around him. Why is it that the people who do anything interesting seem to take themselves so unseriously? Roger W. Straus Jr. was an elegant rascal; Roger was bad."

Remembering Punch Sulzberger: A Newsroom and a Beloved Publisher (Arthur Gelb, Opinion, NY Times 9-30-12). See also Arthur O. Sulzberger, Publisher Who Transformed The Times for New Era, Dies at 86 (Clyde Haberman, NY Times, 9-29-12)
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Chiune Sugihara, Japan Diplomat Who Saved 6,000 Jews During Holocaust, Remembered (Jaweed Kaleem, Huffington Post, 1-24-13). Not an obit, but a remembrance--of a hero.

Spock. In Memory: A Fat Kid’s Love For Mr. Spock (Steven Schlozman, WBUR's CommonHealth: Reform and Fantasy, 3-3-15) "Like all good fictional characters, Spock’s challenges pose profound and fundamental questions for humanity.What is normal? Do we have to choose how to behave or can we just be who we are? And who ARE we in the first place?"

Han Suyin (John Gittings, The Guardian, 11-4-12). Chinese-born author best known for her 1952 novel A Many-Splendoured Thing.

Ruth Tankersley, Tribune scion, D.C. publisher and Arabian horse breeder, dies . (Adam Bernstein, Washington Post, 2-6-13)

Paul W. Tibbets Jr., Pilot of Enola Gay, Dies at 92 (Richard Goldstein, NY Times, 11-2-07) "His mother, the former Enola Gay Haggard, grew up on an Iowa farm and was named for a character in a novel her father was reading shortly before she was born....General Tibbets expressed no regrets over his role in the launching of atomic warfare. “I viewed my mission as one to save lives,” he said. “I didn’t bomb Pearl Harbor. I didn’t start the war, but I was going to finish it.”

Alice K. Turner Dies at 75; Playboy Editor Kept Fiction Alive (Sam Roberts, NY Times 1-24-15)

Martin K. Tytell, Typewriter Wizard, Dies at 94 (Bruce Weber, NY Times, 9-12-08) His "knowledge of typewriters was a boon to American spies during World War II, a tool for the defense lawyers for Alger Hiss, and a necessity for literary luminaries and perhaps tens of thousands of everyday scriveners who asked him to keep their Royals, Underwoods, Olivettis (and their computer-resistant pride) intact..." “And he said, ‘Come work for me, and I’ll marry you,’ ” Mrs. Tytell recalled. “And I said, ‘That’s no inducement.’ ”

Joseph Wapner, judge on ‘The People’s Court,’ dies at 97 (Adam Bernstein, WaPo, 2-26-17) “The People’s Court,” which the silver-haired Wapner hosted from 1981 to 1993, was a syndicated half-hour show that turned private arbitration of small-claims cases into highly engrossing entertainment....For a viewing audience weaned on courtroom dramas such as “Perry Mason,” the Wapner program was a stark departure. Instead of invented murder and mayhem, “The People’s Court” featured unscripted, real-life grievances between plaintiffs and defendants who could be tangent-prone, inarticulate or alarmingly naive. Disputes centered on nonpayment for goods and services, unwise lending of money to shady friends and family members, purchases in which the buyer did not beware and altercations between people and their neighbors’ animals. Each litigant was paid about $250 to appear on TV.

Honoring Lynn Wasnak, a fellow writer whose Many Voices Press advocated for those suffering from abuse, trauma, and dissociative disorders.

Wegstock Video, a visually well-framed set of interesting and often funny videotaped lectures from a conference honoring Dan Wegner, a beloved figure in the world of social psychology. See also The Life of Dan Wegner: A Meeting Place for Joy and Intelligence (Thalia Wheatley, Scientific American, Dec. 2013: "The late Harvard professor pioneered no less than five research sub-disciplines and mentored a generation of social psychologists who still celebrate his mix of deep inquiry spiced with raucous humor") and his final published paper, The Internet Has Become the External Hard Drive for Our Memories (Scientific American, Dec. 2013).

Manson Whitlock, Typewriter Repairman, Dies at 96 (Margalit Fox, NY Times, 9-8-13) "Over time he fixed more than 300,000 machines, tending manuals lovingly, electrics grudgingly and computers never.... 'I’ve heard about them a lot, but I don’t own one, and I don’t want one to own me.' "

William P. Wilson, Kennedy’s TV Aide for Historic 1960 Debate, Is Dead at 86 (Bruce Weber, NY Times, 12-11-14) This obituary is unusual in that it starts with a long, interesting anecdote about John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon and the famous television debate that tipped the scales in JFK's favor in the presidential campaign of 1960 -- because JFK's makeup was subtler and more effective than Nixon's, and because standing behind a single-pole podium, JFK in his dark suit cut a better figure than Nixon in his bland gray suit did. "The telecast conferred a previously unachieved celebrity on Kennedy and propelled him to a lead in the polls that he never surrendered." Not until paragraph 5 do we read about the man the obituary is about: " The man who negotiated the terms of the debate for Kennedy, who insisted on the single-pole podium and who applied Kennedy’s makeup was William P. Wilson, who died on Saturday..."

Yoochan. The Student Who Became the Teacher (Steven Ward, Free Code Camp, Medium, 6-20-16) "Real teaching is the analog act of taking someone by the hand and exploring a topic together. What makes a good teacher isn’t an encyclopedic knowledge of a topic. It’s the wisdom to use just enough of your knowledge to make the journey together interesting."

Frank Zachary, Editor and Art Director, Dies at 101 (Robert D. McFadden, NY Times, 6-13-15)
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Books on (and of) obituary writing


Many of these are collections of obituaries--no better way to learn the art than to read the good ones.

The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries by Marilyn Johnson. Read a selection from this delightful book about "vivid obituaries" and obituary writers on Marilyn's website.
Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers by Alana Baranick, Stephen Miller, and Jim Sheeler.
The New York Times Book of the Dead: 320 Print and 10,000 Digital Obituaries of Extraordinary People, ed. by William McDonald
Come to Judgment:Divers Notables Who Found Fame and Earned Obits in The New York Times by Alden Whitman
Life After Death: The Art of the Obituary by Nigel Starck. Check this interesting review by Graeme Leech (The Australian News, 8-26-06). "Murdoch's revolution brought more space to fill, hence editors turned to obituaries, with their long narratives and steady supply of subjects. A new breed of obituary editors appeared, apparently bent on ridding their columns of euphemisms and dullards....Starck looks at what it takes to make it to the obituary page. He points out that women are in a minority of about one to four. Then he suggests six areas that may attract an editor: fame, association with fame, single acts of notoriety, heroism, villainy and eccentricity. Perhaps some of these criteria tend to exclude women, with the exception of those wives or mistresses of famous men, in which case it can be an excuse to revisit the life of the man, if deceased."
The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood (a novel -- have mystery, half love story)
The Very Best of the Daily Telegraph Books of Obituaries by Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd, part of a great series, which includes
~~The Daily Telegraph Second Book of Obituaries: Heroes and Adventurers
~~Daily Telegraph Third Book: Entertainers
~~Daily Telegraph Book of Military Obituaries and there are more...
Obit: Inspiring Stories of Ordinary People Who Led Extraordinary Lives by Jim Sheeler (an anthology celebrating life, by a Pulitzer Prize-winning obituary writer)
The Last Word: The New York Times Book of Obituaries and Farewells : A Celebration of Unusual Lives, ed. by Marvin Siegel
52 McGs.: The Best Obituaries from Legendary New York Times Reporter Robert McG. Thomas . Publishers Weekly wrote: "A 'lover of the farfetched and the overlooked,' as novelist Mallon puts it in his appreciative introduction, the late New York Times reporter Robert McG. Thomas Jr. (1939-2000) developed a loyal following for quirky, witty obituaries that illuminated the lives of people not automatically destined for 'the Newspaper of Record.'"
The Obit Kit (Susan Soper's workbook)
The Obits: The New York Times Annual 2012 (ed. William McDonald, foreword by Pete Hamill). Obits from August 2010 to July 2011.
The Economist Book of Obituaries ed. Ann Wroe and Keith Colquhoun (from obits published in The Economist from 1994 to 2008).
The Times Great Lives: A Century in Obituaries edited by Ian Brunskill. See also his collection The Times Great Victorian Lives: An Era in Obituaries and Frank Roberts' collection Obituaries for the London Times, 1961-1970
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Kathryn Mayo Candresse (1953-2008)


Kathryn Mayo Candresse died August 7, 2008, in Birmingham, Alabama.  Born May 29, 1953, she was a native of Birmingham and had lived near Bordeaux, France, for the past twenty-two years.  Her family posted an official obituary in the local paper, for her father's generation. The one that follows Kathy wrote herself, for her friends. Her sister, Donna Mayo, is my good friend.


After dancing a tight tango with cancer for five years, Kathryn Mayo was eliminated from the dance contest August 7, 2008.  In lieu of a wake worthy of her Irish heritage, her family will be receiving friends at Jefferson Memorial Gardens funeral home from 6:00pm to 8:00pm, August 8th.  Funeral services will be held at 10:00am, August 9th. 

Although born and raised in Birmingham, Kathy Mayo lived most of her adult life in Bordeaux, France where she found a culture more in tune with her philosophical bent and taste for fine wine.  Kathy worked in research and teaching in Microbiology at the University of Bordeaux and always said that if she were reincarnated the ultimate irony would be to come back as a lab mouse.

She is survived by her husband, Thierry Candresse, virologist, and her daughter, Camille, sweetie-pie, who reside in France.  Her surviving family in America consists of her father, John C. Mayo; her older brother's family, John P. and Ellen Mayo, and offspring Bradley, Mimi, and Anna (of Nashville, TN); her younger sister's family, Donna and her husband Forrest Duncan, Donna's daughter Gray Vargas, and Forrest's children, Caroline and Graham Duncan. .

Kathryn will be remembered by her fellow students at E.B.Erwin High School for her knobby knees and thick glasses, by the students of Auburn University for her witless choice of major subject (Botany), and by professors at the Pennsylvania State University for her total lack of seriousness as a student. They gave her a master's degree in Plant Pathology against their better judgment…

The accomplishments of which she was most proud were her black belt in Aikido, actually getting paid for playing the harp for weddings and receptions, staying married to the same person for over 20 years, being able to make herself understood in French, having a baby at the age of 41, and a prize for research on a bacterium that causes stomach ulcers.