Andrew Sullivan had an uplifting feature, the other day, about obituaries. As is his custom, he found an article at another site, threw out a juicy quote, and moved on. It is up to Chamblee54 to provide more detail, and put up pictures for the text averse. These pictures today are from the Pleasant Hill Baptist Church cemetery. This is a repost.
It is a common practice to look at the obituaries (aka “Irish sports page”) first thing in the morning. If the reader is not included, then the day can proceed as normal. This custom does not take into account the possibility that you have died, and your family it too cheap to purchase a notice.
The article in question is THE DEAD BEAT CLUB Ten things you don’t know about the obit biz. It starts off by saying that the family members are usually happy to help the obit scribe. They have stories about the recently deceased, like ” Eddie “Bozo” Miller boasted of regularly drinking a dozen martinis before lunch, yet he lived to age eighty-nine.”
Newspapers take different approaches to obituaries. Some assign rookies, or use the death beat as punishment for troublemakers. Others give the job to their best writer. The paid notices are usually written by family members, with the help of the undertaker.
Of course, there is the occasional oddball. Alana Baranick, obituary writer for Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer and lead author of Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers , likes to visit every municipality in the United States named Cleveland.
One oft repeated saying is that obituaries are about life, not death. As the source puts it: “The British “quality” newspapers — The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, and The Independent, substantiate the old chestnut about obituaries being about life, not death. These papers rarely mention the cause of death, focusing instead on presenting a vivid account of a lived life. American papers have an unhealthy fixation on death. It’s common for “complications of chronic pulmonary disease” or “bile duct cancer” to show up in the story’s lede, never to resurface.”
Only one obituary has won a Pulitzer prize. ” Leonard Warren, a Metropolitan Opera baritone, dropped dead mid-performance in 1960. Sanche de Gramont (who changed his name to Ted Morgan), a young rewrite man at the New York Herald Tribune, banged out the obit in under an hour and won a 1961 Pulitzer in the Local Reporting, Edition Time, category.”
There is an The International Association of Obituarists. The headquarters is in Dallas TX, presumably near a grassy knoll. They have an annual convention, which is said to be a lively affair. The 2005 conference was in Bath, England. The 2007 conference was in Alfred NY. There is also the Society of Professional Obituary Writers.
IAO was founded by Carolyn Gilbert, the lady who puts the bitch in obituary. Ms. Gilbert collaborates on a page, Remembering The Passed. RTP has a series of podcasts. They require an apple app to listen, which is too much work for PG.
Death is a part of life. Every language has a word for it, and English has a number of slang expressions. An incomplete list would include : ““passed on”, “are no more”, “have ceased to be”, “expired and gone to meet their Maker”, “are bereft of life”, “have ceased to be”, “rest in peace”, “push up daisies”, “whose metabolic processes are now history”, “are off the twig”, “have kicked the bucket”, “shuffled off their mortal coil”, “run down the curtain” or “joined the Choir Invisible”
Columbia Journalism Review (Motto: Strong Press, Strong Democracy) has a feature about Obit. “Krishna Andavolu is the managing editor of Obit an online magazine intended for those interested in obituaries, epitaphs, elegies, postludes, retrospectives, grave rubbings, widow’s weeds, and other such memorabilia of expiration. Part eulogistic clearinghouse, part cultural review, Obit purports to examine life through the prism of death. Founded in 2007 by a wealthy New Jersey architect who sensed an exploitable niche after seeing a middle-aged woman distraught over the death of Captain Kangaroo, the site is a locus for enlightened morbidity.”
OM is worth a visit. The top story features a picture of Betty Ford, who survived Breast Cancer, Alcoholism, and The White House, to die at 93. The site has an ad from Newlymaid.com, with the creative suggestion to Trade In Your Old Bridesmaid Dress & Get a New Little Black Dress.
OM has a popular feature called Died on the same day. Grim reaper recruits on January 24 include Caligula (41). Ira Hayes (1955), Winston Churchill (1965), William Griffith “Bill” Wilson (1971), L. Ron Hubbard (1986), Ted Bundy (1989), Chris Penn (2006).
No google search is complete without someone trying to make money. Obituaries Professionally Written says ” … we believe in honoring a life with respect, dignity and integrity. When needed, euphemism is used liberally. “
OPW content provider Larken Bradley says “”Obituary writing is an honor, a privilege, and great fun … I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing.”… After she dies she expects her obit headline will read, “Obituary Writer, Six Feet Under.”