Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Do women live longer than men?

Back in the 1980s - and possibly after that - comedian Alan King did a comedy routine in which he cited several obits for old guys who were survived by their wives to support his view that women live longer than men.

Check it out (with apologies for King's politicallly incorrect and somewhat salty language).

Sunday, July 27, 2008

All the Way Dead?

I've written my own obituary.

Every six months or so, I update the text and save it on the hard drive of my laptop. In the event of my death, my mate will post it on my Website and e-mail it to everyone in my address book. I've also requested that he publish the obit on The Blog of Death; if I have my way, it'll be the last post to appear there.

Since I'll be dead when my obit goes live, I won't have the opportunity to read the reactions to my demise. I won't know who left behind loving tributes or who simply didn't give a damn. Wouldn't it be neat to have that chance, to know how you were perceived by those around you?

Some people know, because they faked their own death. Here's a great list of 10 Dead People Who Weren't Really Dead.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Obit for a namesake

This was in Creative Loafing, an alt publication in Tampa Bay. Someone died who had the same name as the writer, Alex Pickett. He wanted to know more. I thought it was a cool story.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A 58-year-old guy who had no survivors

First post on this forum. Hope it works the way I want it to. Anyway, this is the kind of subject I'd been hoping to find someday. Previously I'd queried funeral homes on elderly people who have outlived all of their survivors. But this guy was much younger. By the way, I could detect no criminal record. Andy

Another missed opportunity

I don't know about y'all, but when I saw the photo in my local paper this morning of Ronnie Wood with his new girlfriend, a 19-year-old Russian waitress, I made a mental note to start collecting some background materials. Now this from the PA, suggesting that we may have to wait a few years:

(story truncated to prevent copyright violations)

Rolling Stone Wood goes into rehab


Ronnie Wood has entered rehab, a spokeswoman for the star said today. The Rolling Stone is "seeking help" with his battle with alcohol.

Wood recently fled to a bolt-hole in Ireland with a Russian cocktail waitress.

His spokeswoman said: "Following Ronnie's continued battle with alcohol he has entered a period of rehab.

Amusing article on what to print in the paper

Originally posted by Amelia in alt.obituaries

Monday, July 14, 2008

Life and death of a 12-year-old

I tend to shy away from writing obituaries for children. Summing up a short life generally amounts to a couple of biographical facts (birthplace, school, scouts, favorite toy) and a lot of sentimentality.

When I received a call from a reader suggesting we do a human interest story on Demetrius Smith, who was on the planet for only 12 years, I balked. But to give the caller, who was not related to the child, a fair shake, I asked him to send me a copy of the obituary from the funeral program.

I was intrigued. Demetrius lived most of his life with death, having his first bout with cancer as a toddler, and yet I could see that he packed a whole lot of living into those 12 years.

I like to claim that I strive for diversity in my weekly obit feature, A Life Story. My subjects come from all walks of life, ethnic backgrounds, occupations, lifestyles, religious and political persuasions, and, yes, ages.

And yet I had never written A Life Story for anyone under 30.

Demetrius' story was published in The Plain Dealer today, July 14, 2008. The story with photos and a video of Demetrius playing the piano appears on the paper's newsblog.

I was inspired by what I learned about this kid. Judging from the comments that have been made online in these first few hours, it's safe to say the Demetrius' short life has inspired lots of people.

And to think, I almost rejected the idea of writing his story.

Friday, July 11, 2008

2009 Society of Professional Obituary Writers Convention News

The Residence Inn Charlotte Uptown is the site of the 2009 Society of Professional Obituary Writers Convention, which will be held April 23-25, 2009, in Charlotte, N.C.

Read more about that at the convention page.

Would you like to speak at the convention?

What topics would you like to see addressed?

What speakers would you like to hear?

Would you like to volunteer to help with planning and executing the event?

Post your comments on this blog or write to us at

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Death: Stairway to Heaven or Highway to Hell?

If the Aussies are doing it, is America far behind? Not at all. We're increasingly adding personal elements to funerals and memorial services—or inhumations and celebrations of life. The Associated Press reported the contemporary funeral song trend in Australia. Our resident Australian by marriage, Joanne West, confirms the trend to oddities.

AP reports from Adelaide that Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" and AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" haven't made it into the top 10 funeral songs but are crowding "Amazing Grace" and "Abide With Me." Perennial favorites are Frank Sinatra's "My Way" and Louis Armstrong's version of "Wonderful World."

Myself, I've long designated—long before the Broadway show—Peter Allen's "Quite Please, There's a Lady on Stage" for my service or visitation, preferably with mourners joining in a rousing sing along on the chorus. Allen was, of course, Australian.

Read the AP story in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution at

Sunday, July 06, 2008 founder to challenge

In his story Monster founder sets sights on online obituaries, AP Business Writer Seth Sutel reports that Jeff Taylor, who "helped set off a tectonic shift in recruitment advertising by founding, one of the first online companies to challenge a big profit source of newspapers" 14 years ago, plans to compete with newspapers for advertising dollars for online obituaries.

Sutel writes: Taylor believes that may be changing as more people live far from the places they were born and grew up. Taylor hopes his new site,, will fill that broader need.

In the article, Sutel cites such other online obit sites as and, which offer obits in various forms with guest books for a fee.

The article also makes several other points. Read it.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Society of Professional Obituary Writers membership criteria

The Society of Professional Obituary Writers Interim Board has adopted a mission statement and criteria for membership, associate membership and dues.

Membership details are available on the SPOW Web site. Check the Membership page. The mission statement is posted under About Us.

Be watching for more details on the 2009 SPOW Convention in the next few days.