Wally Guenther, my partner-in-grim at Cleveland's Plain Dealer, was reading through faxes, emails and death notices in search of his obit subject for Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2007, when his cubicle mate, Brian Albrecht, suggested he do an obituary for Vincent Fredrick.
Fredrick, 82, had survived two B-17 bomber crashes in Europe during World War II.
He kept a diary of his 35 bombing missions. It was published into a book that was titled "Satan's Lady" after the bomber on which he flew his last 24 missions.
How did Brian know about this guy?
Well, Brian is the go-to guy at the PD for stories about WW2 and the military. He came to work Monday with an interview scheduled at lunchtime with - you guessed it - Vincent Fredrick.
When he called to make sure the appointment was still on, he was told that the man died Friday. So Wally ended up interviewing Fredrick's family.
On top of that, Brian handed information to me that he had received during the summer about another WW2 vet, who had written a memoir of his wartime experiences for his grandchildren.
Yep! He's gone too. Died Nov. 1.
Guess whose "life story" I'm working on this week!
The late Richard Pearson, who was obits editor at The Washington Post, used to say of choosing subjects for obits, "God is my assignment editor." Kay Powell, obits editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and many other obit writers have adopted this phrase as their own.
Yes, God is my assignment editor too. But sometimes he passes that assignment to me through an intermediary, like Brian.
As an atheist, I would never say, "God is my assignment editor." However, when people ask how I choose my subjects, I often reply, "The Grim Reaper keeps a blog and I subscribe to the RSS feed."
The funny thing is...a reporter once wrote a story about my site and used that line as the lede. I promptly wrote her back and said, "I don't kill 'em. I just tell their stories!" *smile*
God, the Grim Reaper (a.k.a. Grimmy), Santa or the Easter Bunny. Regardless of who provides them, the recently deceased subjects we're handed are gifts.
Hopefully, the folks, who read our stories about the lives of those subjects, also consider them gifts.
Sorry. I've got gifts on my mind today. 'Tis the season of gift-giving and reflecting on our own lives.
Happy holidays to all. Ho, ho, ho and all that jazz.
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