Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Wiki Obituary

In a recent interview with, ex-reporter Jayson Blair lamented the fact that his obit will surely lead with his fall from grace at The New York Times.

"I cannot imagine anything I could do, no matter how long I live, that will change that first line of my obituary," Blair said.

In response to this statement, issued a challenge to its readers: Write the first sentence Blair's obituary. The winner of the contest will receive a one-year subscription to Times Select.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

George Hopkins died again Friday.

Once again, Kay Powell has come up with an opening hook to catch the attention of Atlanta Journal-Constitution readers.

You have to keep reading her July 18, 2006, obit for George Hopkins, if you want to know how he manage to die AGAIN.

Was he a peer of Dracula, an undead vampire who was finally done in by a stake through the heart? Did he have a resurrection of biblical proportions? Or did some obituary writer kill him off prematurely years ago?

No. None of the above.

Kay writes:

The first time he died, the experienced World War II hard hat diver was a law school student testing experimental diving equipment. He was resuscitated and suffered only a bout with pneumonia.

" 'Let me tell you about the time I died,' that was his big introduction," said his daughter Edith Collins of Buford. "He said it was the most peaceful experience of his life. I don't think he dived in experimental equipment again."

This time he died of complications from Alzheimer's disease at his Atlanta residence.

Be sure to read the rest of the twice-dead Hopkins' story, told by Kay, the supreme Southern storyteller.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Fred Clark's Last Laugh

My View from the Reference Desk - Occasional Musings on
the World of Obits from Tom Hobbs:

'Ole Fred Clark was a jokester, all right. So it was only fitting that he got his last laugh -- and more than the allotted 15 minutes of fame -- on July 9 when the Richmond Times-Dispatch ran his self-penned obituary. The family had to tweak it a bit, as Fred had never expected to die as the result of an automobile accident. The spirit of the man shines through though, and we are all a bit the poorer for his passing.

It's pretty clear that this 61 year old Richmond resident and Verizon retiree was a rascal at heart. He wanted us to know of his affection for "bacon, butter, cigars, and bourbon" but he was clear on this: it was the sight of his wonderful wife Alice that really lit up his world. Fred was a patriot and a godly man in his way. He didn't hold politicians in high regard, though, as he professed his amazement at "what the voters would tolerate." Sorry that he couldn't realize his final wish -- "to be run over by a beer truck on the way to the liquor store to buy booze for a double date to include his wife, Rush Limbaugh, and Ann Coulter to crash an ACLU cocktail party" -- Fred asked that you commemorate his passing by making a "sizeable purchase" of spirits to get rip roaring drunk at home "with someone you love or hope to make love to." Something else about Fred . . . he wanted you to know that "he never peed in the shower - on purpose."

In a Times-Dispatch follow up piece running on July 11, Fred's son confirmed that his Dad had tamed the rowdy ways some during his last years but would still be going out literally with a bang. Fred's remains are to be shot from a cannon later this summer at a family party.

Clearly Fred Clark's obituary struck a responsive chord all across the political spectrum. As of late July 17, his guestbook at the online obit contained 111 pages of entries.

Way to go, Fred! (Really!)

That's this View from the Reference Desk. I hope to be with you again from time to time.

(Tom Hobbs is a Reference Librarian at the University of South Carolina Aiken.)

Sunday, July 09, 2006

New published story about the 8th and other Greats

Cathy Dunphy's editors at the Toronto Star gave her so much space for "Death Becomes Us," a feature about the 8th Great Obituary Writers Conference, that she added observations and lessons from the 6th and 7th Greats.

Great job, Cathy. I especially enjoyed the stranger's comment about obit writers being poets. Nice touch.