Monday, June 29, 2009

Limited time offers

This week's celebrity dead — Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson. But wait! There's more!! Billy Mays.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Gayle Ronan Sims' last obit: Ed McMahon

Before Gayle Ronan Sims went into the hospital for a lung transplant a couple of months ago, she completed the finishing touches on the advance obit she wrote about Ed McMahon, Johnny Carson's TV sidekick on "The Tonight Show."

She requested that we post that obit on the Obituary Forum when McMahon's time came. It's time now. McMahon died this morning (June 23, 2009).

Gayle's time came sooner. She died April 16, 2009, not long after undergoing transplant surgery.
Her byline appears on McMahon's obit in today's Philadelphia Inquirer. (Per Philly Inky policy, this link will not remain online indefinitely. Once it disappears from the Internet, it can be ordered from the Inquirer archives.)

She began the obit this way: Ed McMahon, 86, who began his half-century television career in Philadelphia before becoming Johnny Carson's sidekick on The Tonight Show where his stentorian booming announcement "Heeere's Johnny!" became his trademark, died this morning.

Gayle's story gets front-page treatment on the newspaper's mainpage at

Gayle was the champion of incorporating multimedia into obits. She probably was responsible for assembling the slideshow that accompanies his obit.

As was her custom, I'm sure Gayle searched for video of McMahon and designated at least one video that would be appropriate to run with his obit. I'm guessing its omission was an oversight on the part of the folks who posted the obit online this morning. Perhaps it will be added later.

In the meantime, here's a video of McMahon in his role as straight man to Carson's Karnak the Magnificent.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Non-pro seeks feedback from pro obit writers

In an email to the Society of Professional Obituary Writers, corporate writer Susan C. McGarry wrote that she recently penned her father’s obit and would like to get comments from those who write obits professionally.

Those of you who prefer to respond to her privately rather than making a public comment on Obituary Forum can get Susan's contact info from Alana Baranick.

Here's the obituary Susan wrote for her father:

L. Benjamin Clark, 76, of Scottsdale, Ariz., passed away June 1, 2009, after a blessedly brief battle with cancer.

Beloved father, husband, grandfather, friend and teacher, Ben was born Sept. 22, 1932, in Livingston County, Ill., to Leonard and Alice McKinney Clark. Raised in the small town of Chenoa, Ill., he was an avid track and football athlete at Chenoa High School, where he still held the shot put record of 52’ 8" when the school closed in 2004. Ben went on to star at the University of Illinois and at Illinois State University, playing football and setting a school shot put record at ISU as well.

While at ISU, Ben met Bettyglen "B.G" Render of Bloomington, and they married in 1953. Ben graduated from ISU in 1955 with degrees in business education and physical education, and taught at school in Milford, Mt. Morris and Palmyra before moving his family to Rock Island, in 1960. He found Rock Island to be an enjoyable place to raise a family, and his teaching and coaching career blossomed.

The strongly built 6’ 4" teacher and track and football coach was a fixture on the local sports scene, also serving as Rock Island High School’s athletic department business manager. He was admired by his students and the athletes he coached, as well as by his peers, who often enjoyed his friendly style and desire to bring a smile and laugh to those around him. A brick paver in his honor is installed on the plaza at the Rocky Fieldhouse.

Ben retired from Rocky in 1989, and he and B.G. headed to Mesa, Ariz., for retirement. But a kicked-back retirement wasn’t for Ben. He started a second career in teaching and coaching for Mesa Public Schools and became very active in Senior Olympics, competing and winning medals at the local, regional and national levels. He took up hobbies in photography and genealogy but his zest for sports remained a focus of his life. He retired again in 1995.

Known as "Benny" in his younger years, then as "Big Ben" by his students, friends and family, in later life he was affectionately known as "Boompa" by his three grandchildren, whom he adored.

Surviving are his wife, B.G., Scottsdale; daughters, Carol Clark and her husband, David Hassard, Albuquerque, N.M., and Susan Albrecht McGarry and her husband, Patrick McGarry, Scottsdale. He is also survived by three grandchildren, Beth (Hassard) Diven and her husband, Matt Diven, Fort Collins, Colo., and Ben Albrecht and Ted Albrecht, both of Phoenix. He is further survived by sister-in-law, Joanne Clark, brother-in-law Tjark Rients; as well as by nieces, nephews, many other relatives and many friends. He was preceded in death by his parents; three brothers, Arthur, Lemuel and William; and a sister, Mary Agnes.

Ben’s talents as a teacher and coach, his sense of humor, his generous manner, his love of family and his passion for all things sports will be remembered with love. A special and unique man, he will be dearly missed.

A celebration of Ben’s life will be held on Saturday, June 13, at Beck Memorial Home at 11 a.m. in Bloomington, Ill. Visitation will be from 10 to 11 a.m. followed by a memorial service and interment at Park Hill Cemetery in Bloomington with Jerry Hoffman presiding. The family asks that donations be made to the Ben Clark Memorial Fund through the Rock Island-Milan Education Foundation, 2101 6th Ave., Rock Island, IL 61201, to support athletes in need at Rock Island High School. Donations may also be made to the American Cancer Society. Arrangements are being handled by Beck Memorial Home, Bloomington.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Not inside a pineapple necessarily, but definitely under the sea

In case you didn't read the first comment on the previous blog post, here's a link to Eternal Reefs, an underwater destination for cremated remains:

Interview with Joan Harvey of The Oregonian

Justin Nobel, a blogger who wrote obits for the Point Reyes Light after our colleague Larken Bradley left that paper for the West Marin Citizen, recently sought an interview with a member of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers.

He got one with Joan Harvey.

You can read it on Justin's blog at: