The final word: a look at what obituaries have to tell us

by High Gilmore
Posted 1/20/22

Most people struggle to understand what, in sum, constitutes a successful life. We all know the standard measures: marrying well; having model children, a prestigious job, lots of (or, at least, enough) money; being honored, toasted, or roasted at a banquet; owning a dream house, car, private jet, wardrobe, jewelry; achieving feats; winning competitions, and so on.  

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

The final word: a look at what obituaries have to tell us

Posted

The obituary pages of newspapers are the final draft of Facebook. They mark the dividing line between seeing how someone is doing and seeing how they've done. They represent the moment when the earthly judges lift their scorecards. Read carefully, they feel like highly condensed novels - some funny, some tear-provoking, others tempting applause. For the majority of folks, this will be the only time their deeds, their very existences, will be mentioned in public print.

Most people struggle to understand what, in sum, constitutes a successful life. We all know the standard measures: marrying well; having model children, a prestigious job, lots of (or, at least, enough) money; being honored, toasted, or roasted at a banquet; owning a dream house, car, private jet, wardrobe, jewelry; achieving feats; winning competitions, and so on.  

But most obituaries are composed by other people. They'll recite from one's resume, perhaps with pride, but what will your survivors say about how you affected their lives? I was curious about that, so I started taking notes. Since big newspapers tend to stick to "the facts," I looked at small town papers. Here are some excerpts from what I read.

Casper, Wyo. "When Susanna E. Pino was 13, her dad passed away leaving her with the responsibility of caring for her mother and the ranch.  Susanna had to grow up very fast.  She had her black gelding horse, which she rode bareback to go up to the Pecos Wilderness to check cows. She could ride bareback better than any man in a saddle. .... Susanna was never afraid or turned down any kind of work.  She helped others in learning how to do anything and would share so much knowledge and wisdom.  Susanna impacted so many young lives and she never knew a stranger...Susanna was always tinkering or fixing something."  

Wheatland, Wyo. Violet Roselle Robertson died at 94. "She was the middle of five daughters. She was raised to work hard on the farm, go to church, make do with what was available, enjoy life, and share whatever she had...She was happy whether they had steak or were living on beans.  She always had room at the table for anyone who showed up. Although she was always kind and considerate, Violet was rarely beaten at checkers or Chinese checkers."

Houma, La. Lifelong resident, Leonce "L.G." Gautreaux III passed at 81 on January 8, 2022. "L.G. was a loving husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather. He loved his family dearly and will be missed by all who knew him. L.G. was a friend to many. He made a lot of lifelong friendships as an oilfield salesman in southeast Louisiana."

Plainfield, Ill. Ken Rich, a loving husband, father and uncle, passed away on Friday, August 6th at 69. "Ken enjoyed working at Sharp Electronics for over 17 years and was also a volunteer EMT at the Hillside Fire Department. Ken made many close friends at the places he worked and cherished those friendships deeply. Ken could fix anything and was always willing to help. Whether it was a household project, automotive or anything that needed repair, he could do it. Ken’s kind words and smile will be missed by his friends, family and all who knew him."

Dolgeville, N.Y.  Mary E. Pyle- Lynch Pierce, 87, died December 26, 2012. Mrs. Pierce's step-grandchildren, Patrick and Heather, posted on the Enea Family Funeral Home's tribute wall: "Gram, Thank you for being my Gram for the last 33 years...You always treated my sister and I like family even though we were not connected by blood...Thank you for the gift of love...You always saw good in everyone, No matter what they've done. You were always the one we could all lean on. Even though it must have felt like a ton. You were always the strength of the family...you're one of a kind."

Omaha, Neb. "Stanley Beckwith's granddaughters...found him as sweet as his homemade ice cream. A devout God-fearing man, Stan never missed Sunday services."

Omaha again: Lynn Marie Hamill died this month. "In addition to being a dedicated and loving mother and wife, Lynn was a long-time Elementary Music Teacher in the Omaha Catholic School System. She loved working in her garden, singing in the Church choir, playing her trombone and piano, and animals, especially horses. Throughout her adult life, she held an unwavering faith in God and trust in the Bible."

Soddy Daisy, Tenn. Bonnie Smith Burchar, 58, "went home to be with the Lord on January 8, 2022. Bonnie lived her life on earth to the fullest...She loved her family with all her heart, and they meant the world to her. Bonnie will be remembered for her love for everyone she met; she was kind, considerate and full of laughter." 

Ooltewah, Tenn.  Luciano Rivera Jr., 76, passed away on January 5, 2022. "Four years ago, he relocated from New York to Ooltewah, to be with his sister and family. He was a veteran of the U.S. Army and a retired U.S. Postal Service Examiner in Bronx, NY. He was a loving and kind-hearted father, brother, son, uncle and friend. He had a loving heart and soul, and was a music and movie lover. He loved his New York Yankees and was a baseball fan till the end. His nickname was 'Lucky'."

Roseburg, Ore: On Jan. 1, 2022, Kenneth Warren Alexander, 93, passed away from natural causes. Kenneth was born in North Bend. "A proud native Oregonian, he made his home on a section of the family's original donation land claim outside of the small town of Dillard. He spent his life providing for his family by working in the logging industry, and owned his own small logging business as a young man...Kenneth lived a long and rewarding life. Strong, self-sufficient and resourceful, Ken was one of the last of a dying breed."

Cave Springs, Ark: Thomas Hanson Judson 51, passed away in Raleigh. "Jud was a person of impeccable integrity who could not tell a lie to save his life. He was also a person who believed that the truth of any matter was worth fighting for."

Eureka Springs, Ark. Darlene Parker was born in 1955 and passed away December 22, 2021. Darlene attended Church on the Hill, First Assembly of God in Berryville. "She worked for Greg Thurman for almost 20 years. She will be remembered for her unconditional love and generosity, her contagious joy, and her smile that would brighten any room she walked into."

In closing, here are some of the most frequently spoken words of praise said about the people you met here today: Saw the good in everyone. Loving. Responsible. Non-judgmental. Willing to help. Generous. Sharing. Hardworking. Independent. Caring. Sweet. Dedicated to family. Considerate. Kind-hearted. Strong. Resourceful. Integrity. Contagious joy. Smile. Humor. Irrepressible spirit.

No one mentioned what a big house the dear departed had lived in, what kind of car they drove, or how much money they'd accumulated.

Comments

No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here