Obituary as literaray form

I am devoted to the Times obits.

Here's the best so far this year:

HANSEN - Stanley.

...and the Lord cried out to his flock, "I need a master framer, who can also cut a lot of mat openings." There was a great deal of murmuring ... then two voices were heard, "Lord, get Stanley Hansen."

The Lord said, "who spoke?"

"I am Sylvan Cole and this is Arthur Brown. Stanley worked for me at Associated American Artists."

Arthur Brown said, "Stanley was the best mat cutter Arthur Brown & Bro. ever had. He's been doing his job for sixty years."

The Lord said "Stanley I need you this week."

Stanley said "Dot, I got to go, I have a big job and they need me."
(Peter A. Brown).


jillykat said...

I just spit Diet Pepsi on my keyboard. This obit is a beautiful, beautiful thing

E.A.Saraby said...

That's beautiful. Who ever said obits should be boring "survived by" lists? Shame on them.

Chumplet said...

I work for the classified department of a community newspaper (#1 in North America!) and I have never come across an obit like that one.
We had a great birthday notice a couple of years ago devoted to Heywood Jablome's fiftieth. "Only nineteen more to go!"

Jean said...

I can't imagine a better obit than that. You're right.

Miss Snark said...

I was shopping with a friend one afternoon and the clerk asked his name. Some sort of random customer survey thing (he was paying cash). "Jablome," he replied deadpan, "My first name is Heywood."

The clerk never turned a hair. I on the other hand required oxygen. "Heywood Jablome" is one of my favorite "register to read this site" names to use.

dink said...

I love that somebody gets that humor is part of life and so can appropriately be part of obits. (a

"Heywood Jablome"

Oh, yeah ...that was a definitely spitter.

Rene' said...

And here I thought I was the only one who read obituaries! This one is my favorite, published in June 2005 in The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC). I apologize for not providing the link, but I'm new to commenting and haven't figured out that feature yet.

If you Google the deceased's name, you will read all the publicity that came about as a result. :)

On June 3, 2005 at 10:45 p.m. in Memphis, Tennessee, Dorothy Gibson Cully, 86, died peacefully, while in the loving care of her two favorite children, Barbara and David. All of her breath leaked out.

The mother of four children, grandmother to 11, great-grandmother to nine, devoted wife for 56 years to the late Ralph Chester Cully and a true friend to many, Dot had been active as a volunteer in the Catholic Church and other community charities for much of the past 25 years.

She was born the second child of six in 1919 as Frances Dorothy Gibson, daughter to Kathleen Heard Gibson and Calvin Hooper Gibson, an inventor best known as the first person since the Middle Ages to calculate the arcane lead-to-gold formula. Unable to actually prove this complex theory scientifically, and frustrated by the cruel conspiracy of the so-called "scientific community" working against his efforts, he ultimately stuck his head in a heated gas oven with a golden delicious apple propped in his mouth. Miraculously, the apple was saved for the evening dessert. Calvin was not.

Native Marylanders and long time Baltimore, Kent Island and Ocean City residents, Ralph and Dot later resided in Lakeland, Florida and Virginia Beach, Virginia. Several years after Ralph's death, Dot moved to Raleigh in 2001, where she lived with her son, David.

At the time of her death, Dot was visiting her daughter, Carol in Memphis. Carol and her husband, Ron, away from home attending a "very important conference" at a posh Florida resort, rushed home 10 days later after learning of the death. Dot's other children, dutifully at their mother's side helping with the normal last minute arrangements - hospice notification, funeral parlor notice, revising the last will, etc. - happily picked up the considerable slack of the absent former heiress.

Dot is warmly remembered as a generous, spiritually strong, resourceful, tolerant and smart woman, who was always ready to help and never judged others or their shortcomings. Dot always found time to knit sweaters, sew quilts and send written notes to the family children, all while working a full time job, volunteering as Girl Scout leader and donating considerable time to local charities and the neighborhood Catholic Church.

Dot graduated from Eastern High School at 15, worked in Baltimore full time from 1934 to 1979, beginning as a factory worker at Cross & Blackwell and retiring after 30 years as property manager and controller for a Baltimore conglomerate, Housing Engineering Company, all while raising four children, two of who are fairly normal.

An Irishwoman proud of and curious about her heritage, she was a voracious reader of historical novels, particularly those about the glories and trials of Ireland. Dot also loved to travel, her favorite destination being Eire's auld sod, where she dreamed of the magic, mystery and legend of the Emerald Isle.

Dot Cully is survived by her sisters, Ginny Torrico in Virginia, Marian Lee in Florida and Eileen Adams in Baltimore; her brother, Russell Gibson of Fallston, Maryland; her children, Barbara Frost of Ocean City, Maryland, Carol Meroney of Memphis, Tennessee, David Cully of Raleigh, North Carolina and Stephen Cully of Baltimore, Maryland.

Contributions to the Wake County (NC) Hospice Services are welcomed.

Opinions about the details of this obit are not, since Mom would have liked it this way.

Gili said...

rene, that obit is amazing. i love that section too. maybe as a writing exercise i'll try to write creative obits for myself and all of the "characters" in my life.

becky said...

This brought tears to mine eyes. Thanks Ms. Snark, today is my birthday and thoughts of my own demise when you reach the big 42, can only hope my obit is both entertaining and reverent. My husband and I pledged after reading this obit, to use its style as a guideline whomever goes first.

Chumplet said...

Our former Editor in Chief who moved to Raleigh sent us that missive last year. Priceless.
Miss Snark, I will tell our hapless classified sales rep (who was sure she would get fired) about your encounter with the famous Heywood.

Maya said...

There were stories in newspapers as far away as the Chicago Tribune on Dorothy Gibson Cully's death notice which had been paid for by her son, David.

People who assumed there was a rift in the family complained to the N&O about publicizing private family matters during a time of grief. The N&O was forced to run a column explaining that David was being humorous.

Since July 2nd is the first anniversary of the death notice, it's appropriate to lift a mug of beer (or a pail of gin) in Mrs. Cully's honor this holiday weekend.

Kafaleni said...

Brilliance! Sheer brilliance!

Ray Goldensundrop said...

An obit with flair? Why not. Agreed that this is a beautiful thing and reflects someone who was, well, what was he? More than met the eye, of course. Memorable and worthy of love, possibly sponges. Cut an impressive mat and earned friends. What diety would not want such a soul? I can't think of any. Hope today I meet such a person and thankful they exist.

Recipe for a brother:

Rolph (1947-1998)

1 cup Jessie Ventura
2 tsp. Bill Gates
Dash Mother Teressa
Pinch Larry Flint

Mix all ingredients well in crucible. Place into blast furnace until bright orange. Pour into conventional mold and expect surprises. Wear sturdy shoes and welding mask.

That was my eulogy for a remarkably screwed up man. Maybe he'll get to meet Stanley.

Jennifer said...

So excellent! I'll never forget it.

Eileen said...

I think Dot may be my new favorite name.

Poohba said...

One of the best pieces of non-fiction I've read lately is "The Dead Beat" by Marilyn Johnson; all about obituaries and the people who write them.