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 legacy.com 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.)
I gave a talk to 100 residents of a retirement community, and one of them knew Fred. He thought the obit was in bad taste not for the humor but for writing in public about things like not peeing in the shower. Many of Fred's legacy.com guest book entries were jokes from pseudonymic people, but the comment I heard from Fred's friend today was genuine and heartfelt.
p.s. Devoted bloggers will notice this response was inadvertently added to Cathy Dunphy's piece below. Sorry. kp
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