It’s never too early to start padding your obituary
For many of us, an obituary is our final chance to be “interesting.”
First, some newspaper nomenclature. A death notice is the short list of the deceased’s immediate family and the announcement of where and when services will be held. An obituary has the same details but includes a miniature biography detailing the person’s achievements and experiences.
At one time, not that long ago, obits were the domain of only the rich and famous. You were somebody if the local newspaper elevated you to obit status. Families must still pass an editor’s acid test at the Buffalo area’s sole daily newspaper in order to have an obituary printed by it, but speaking from the viewpoint of a weekly, community newspaper editor, almost everyone is that important.
Most daily newspapers charge to publish death notices. The fee in downtown Buffalo’s paper is $9.49 per line, per day. One death notice published on April 2 totaled 15 lines at a cost of $142.35. There was a 28-line listing that day that would have cost the family $265.72. It’s almost a penalty if you have a large family and want to be sure to include the name of everyone.
If you wish to include a photo of the deceased with the death notice, add $70. Should you prefer to use an icon, such as a cross, Star of David, American flag or shamrock, the artwork will add an extra three or four lines to the listing (upping the cost by an additional $28.47 to $37.96).
My publisher does not charge to publish either type of listing. Information and photos provided by the funeral home or the family are readily accepted with few exceptions.
Obituaries are a personal time capsule capable of preserving slices of history often forgotten. They document an individual’s life story as well as many of the things that surrounded him or her. Without such insignificant-sounding entries, local history would be lost forever.
Some of the best obits on record have been published by a weekly newspaper in South Dakota, the Mobridge Tribune. Its staff has won countless local and national awards but the obits it has written are stellar.
Clarence Moser was remembered as much for his high school years as his role as a businessman after he died in 2010. “He was a member of the basketball team. His main desire was to play, but the coach said he wasn’t ready yet. He was in charge of carrying the medicine chest,” according to the Tribune.
Mobridge has a very proud Native American community. This was evident in the obit for Doris J. “Dola” Hump, who passed away in January. She grew up at Rattlesnake, east of Red Scaffold, according to the Tribune. “She spent time working on crossword puzzles, attending powwows, playing bingo and talking to her friends on her cell phone.” Interesting.
Eileen Dolecheck, who died a couple of months ago, was married in 1954 at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Timber Lake. “St. Joseph’s Catholic Church was demolished by a tornado and the new church was renamed Holy Cross,” noted the newspaper, fulfilling its obligation to be the first draft of history.
Sometimes, the headline for an obit says it all: “Susan Fischer Starts New Job, Caring for Pets in Heaven.” It seems Susan “had a soft spot for pets.” Interesting.
The Mobridge Tribune caught my eye many years ago, thanks to the late Jo Hall, who wrote its colorful obituaries. When she died last year, her daughter helped fill in the blanks.
“Wendy recalled how birthday parties became full productions with a theme throughout. She remembered one of the parties had a circus theme, with Jo dressing the pets and some of her garden vegetables as exotic animals.”
Stay interesting, my friends.
(David F. Sherman a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York, a group of community newspapers with a combined circulation of approximately 75,000 homes. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)