Saturday, April 22, 2006

What a way to go!

Scott Crossfield, a legendary test pilot who pushed the boundaries of flight in supersonic planes, was killed Wednesday when the small Cessna he was piloting crashed into the pine-shrouded mountains of northeast Georgia during a storm. - from Washington Post obit, April 20, 2006.

Lawrence Grodsky, a nationally known motorcycle safety expert and author who taught thousands of riders to handle themselves on the roads, died Saturday on his bike in Fort Stockton, Texas, after being hit by a deer. He was 55, and had been on his way from a safety conference in California to Pittsburgh for his mother's 85th birthday. - from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette obit, April 11, 2006.

Anthony Burger, 44, died while playing piano on a gospel music ocean cruise trip sponsored by Bill and Gloria Gaither and all their gospel music friends. Some 1,500 passengers were aboard. According to a doctor's report, Burger's heart simply burst while he was doing what he loved best, playing a gospel song before the cruise ship passengers and the other singers on the ship. - from story printed in the Leaf-Chronicle of Clarksville, Tenn., March 5, 2006. (More on Burger's life and death can be accessed online through the Christian Concert Authority news archives.)

Folks who died while doing what they loved. Let's add this to the obit writer's version of "These are a few of my favorite things."

Joe Holley and Stephanie McCrummen include little details that make the Crossfield obit take off. When Crossfield's Cessna 210, which he had been flying for years, went down, he was returning home from Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala., where he had given a talk, the pair of Washington Posties write.

They add: In a lifetime of flying, Crossfield was well acquainted with risk, having survived at least one crash landing and a catastrophic engine explosion while testing the X-15, a revolutionary rocket-powered airplane.

And the clincher, a quote from retired Marine Corps. Gen. John R. "Jack" Dailey, director of the Air and Space Museum, who noted the irony of a man who survived crash landings and explosions only to die in a small, private plane in a storm. "But if he'd been given a choice," he said, "he probably wouldn't have had it any other way. He would not have wanted it to happen on a front porch, in a rocker."

Isn't that great?

Sally Kalson filled Grodsky's obit with details and comments that add to the irony of his manner of leaving the planet.

Side note: I don't recall ever meeting Grodsky, although we attended the same high school - Gateway Senior High School, Monroeville, Pa. - at the same time. Our common scholastic heritage and the fact that Myron Cope, the radio voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers, was his uncle make me feel connected to him. Isn't it interesting how obits can have that affect on people?

Anthony Burger. I was heart-broken when I read the wire reports of Burger's death. I was a big fan.

Burger used to do this bit during a Gaither concert in which he'd play a happy instrumental piece really fast. It seemed that he was playing increasingly faster and more ferociously until, thanks to special effects, smoke poured out of the piano as though Burger had set the keys and strings on fire.

Performers at gospel concerts often sing songs about heaven and make comments about feeling exhilarated by the music and the message in the music. They say things like, "It feels like we're in heaven already," or "I can't wait to go to my heavenly home."

I hope Anthony Burger was in that frame of mind when he died. I couldn't find a report that gave the title of the song he was playing when he made his exit. It would have been nice to know.


Dave said...

That's the good part of writing your obit when you're alive. Most die doing what they love (none during sex yet though).

Claire Martin said...

I suppose it would be tasteless to suggest including Seattle resident who became posthumously famous as a horse-lover. Literally.

Alana Baranick said...

For those who missed our lively discussion from last year, Claire is referring to the guy who died from injuries sustained after "doing it" with a horse.

I don't know the details of this particular human-equine sex act, but as I recall, no charges of animal abuse were filed against the owners of the farm, who were alleged to have knowingly provided the horse. The reason: The horse wasn't hurt by the act. At least, not physically.

Alana Baranick said...

I'm sure there are examples of people who died while making love to another human. Maybe of a heart attack. Maybe of a gunshot administered by a jealous third party.

Certainly many folks have died of sexually transmitted diseases, but they don't actually die while doing what they love.

A popular urban myth tells the story of a couple, who, in an effort to heighten their sexual pleasure, did it while dangling from a third-story window. While in the act, the woman slipped away from her partner and fell to her death.

I suppose you could say that some folks, who die doing what they love, love pleasuring themselves.

Several years ago, an unmarried northeast Ohio government official was found dead in his home of accidental autoerotic asphyxiation. In case you can't figure out what that is, the printed news account of his death said it "occurs when a person blocks their oxygen supply to heighten a sex act."

The account of his death probably would not have been printed in the newspaper if he weren't a public figure.