Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Great obit resource - TIME archives

I only slowly became aware of this - all or at least an awful lot of Time magazine is available for free at their website. Anybody who was newsworthy, say, 20 or 50 years ago is there.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The 9th, 10th and 11th Great Obituary Writers Conferences

The wait is over, grimsters.
The sites of the next three obituary writers conferences are set.

The 9th is scheduled for June 14-16, 2007, in Alfred, N.Y.
The 10th - in 2008 - will be in Toronto, Ontario.
And the 11th will be in Marin County, Calif., in 2009.

Carolyn Gilbert, the founder of the conferences and the International Association of Obituarists, has posted all sorts of details and has promised to give updates along the way at Obitpage.com.

Make your reservations for Alfred as soon as possible. See you there!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Lives of the dodo

British focused, but worth a giggle, As a Dodo writes mock obituaries as political satire.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Why I love alt.obituaries

I trust this web address will carry you to alt.obituaries,
where a serial post about the life and work of
Ryan Larkin is developing. The obituary, from
the Globe and Mail, is wonderful, and the youtube
links to his short films and a short film about him
are stunning.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

A first: double obit of unrelated people

Here's something utterly tasteless - how would you like to have your obit combined with somebody else's just because you worked for the same lousy employer?

Two C.W. Post professors die on same day


March 8, 2007

Two prominent faculty members at the C.W. Post campus of Long Island University died of cancer yesterday - music department chairman Christopher Culver and Jacqueline Frank, considered one of America's foremost medievalists.

Culver, 54, of Sea Cliff, who also was director of Jazz Studies, came to the Brookville campus in 2001, and was elected chairman of the department of music in 2003. He served as chairman of the C.W. Post faculty council in 2005 and 2006.

"He was a jazz trombonist and a wonderful teacher," said James McRoy, who lives in Huntington and heads symphonic winds at Post. "He was very dynamic. The students really enjoyed working with him."

McRoy said that, this summer, a student tour with a jazz ensemble and a vocal jazz ensemble that Culver helped organize will be performing in France. "The jazz ensemble has 18 members; he was responsible for it."

Besides his widow, Carrie, Culver is survived by an 8-year-old daughter, Madison. A memorial service for him is being planned at the campus Interfaith Center. McRoy said formal funeral services would be held on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Christ Church in Oyster Bay.

Frank, 61, of Great Neck, whose research dealt with the political implications of 12th century art in Western Europe and England, also was interested in the way Jews were depicted during that period. She specialized in Medieval stained glass and inscriptions, and had chaired sessions at international conferences on the study of the Middle Ages in both the United States and Europe.

She earned her bachelor's degree from Hebrew University in Jerusalem and her master's and PhD in art history from Columbia University. She is survived by her husband, Itzak, and their two children.

Funeral services for her will be held tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. at Riverside Memorial Chapel, 180 W. 76th St., in Manhattan.

C.W. Post is establishing memorial scholarships in the name of each of the professors through its Office of Development. Messages of condolence can be sent to the Dean's office, school of visual and performing arts, C.W. Post campus, Long Island University, 720 Northern Blvd., Brookville, N.Y. 11548.

Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Talk about burying the lede! Obit writer and hog-caller!

Thomas J. Normand, 65, longtime Nashville Banner obituary writer

Longtime Nashville Banner obituary writer Thomas Jean "Tom" Normand,
65, is remembered as a master of his craft and as a fun-loving soul by
former colleagues.

Mr. Normand's body was discovered Sunday at his West Nashville home by
his only child, Suzanne Normand Blackwood, a staffer at The

Arrangements are incomplete but are being handled by Harpeth Hills
Funeral Home and Memory Garden, 9090 Highway 100.

Former Nashville Banner Editor Eddie Jones said Tuesday that Mr.
Normand "put his heart and soul into that special niche" of obituary

Jones said Mr. Normand "had some sort of natural kindness in him and,
during the 10 years I worked with him, I got innumerable letters and
telephone calls from families who had lost somebody and Tom had done
the obit. They would say how much they appreciated Tom's kindness."

When The Banner closed nine years ago, Mr. Normand came to The
Tennessean for a time.

Mary Hance, who learned to write obituaries under Mr. Normand's
tutelage in her early years at the Banner, remembered him as "a true
professional with a knack for writing ... interesting and descriptive

"He took it very seriously and chose to be an obituary writer in an
industry where, in many newspapers, obit writing was relegated to
young, inexperienced reporters."

His life wasn't just about death, though. It also was about calling
the hogs.

"He had another side, a fun-loving side," said Hance, The Tennessean's
"Ms. Cheap."

"He was one of the people who helped shape the Swine Ball, the
American Cancer Society fundraiser that spoofed the Swan Ball. His
annual award-winning hog call - a long, drawn-out, very realistic
rendition - was unequalled and always drew a huge crowd and much

"He also could, at the drop of a hat, recite Louisiana Governor Jimmie
Davis' gospel song 'Supper Time.' "

Mr. Normand was born Dec. 29, 1941, in Marksville, La. Survivors
include two sisters, Peggy Underwood of Houston and Leah Sadden of
Hammond, La.; a brother, Owen Normand of Soquel, Calif.; four nieces;
and a nephew.

"obit" the Book

I have an advance copy of Pulitzer Prize winner Jim Sheeler's new book, "obit," subtitled "Inspiring stories of ordinary people who led extraordinary lives," and started reading it Tuesday night. My plan was to flip through it, but I couldn't put it down.

It's a good read, a showcase for our colleague's deft writing—which we recognized before the Pulitzer committee did—and recommended reading for the two other Atlanta Journal-Constitution obit writers, Derrick Henry and Holly Crenshaw, who gets a mention in the paperback version of Marilyn Johnson's "Dead Beat." Marilyn writes a cover blurb for Jim's book, and it's featured in the publisher's promotional letter, too.

Jim's writing stands the test of time. You can't help but find a new, though dead, friend in "How to Build a Mountain," Edward "Duke" Mallory's obit or admire this quote about the ubiquitous cancer death from the Aimee Grunberger's husband,
"It's not that there's too much cancer in the world. It's just that it's badly distributed."

Tell your bookstore to reserve you a copy and be jealous that I already have mine.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Courageous battles and sensitivity

I teach an adult-education seminar in Marin County, California, titled "Write Your Own Obituary (Or a Loved One's)." In a class a few weeks back, I suggested that students steer of obits cliches including, "She never said a bad word about anyone," and "He'd have given you the shirt off his back."

When I suggested that "a courageous battle" with such-and-such a disease is another hackneyed descriptive we can all do without, one class member taught me a lesson in sensitivity. This 50-something woman was there to write her own obit. She was suffering a recurrence of cancer and said that after enduring repeated rounds of radiation and chemotherapy, the ordeal feels like waging war.

Mea culpa.