Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween from Obit Magazine

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Follow the links for some scary, spooky and interesting stories from your friends at Obit Magazine.

Spooky Scary Halloween Stories
Obit's Spookiest and scariest stories for your fright and delight this Halloween.

A Surprise One Would Never Seek
By Jeff Weinstein
You’re wandering through a cinematic moonlit graveyard, when, with a shudder, you are unaccountably pulled toward a newly polished, upright stone. You approach, and…yes, it’s Your Own Name, the date of death obscured by your own shadow.

My Heart Will Go On
By Natalie Pompilio
Ghosts, spectres and spooky apparitions populate Mary Roach's Spook. A Review.

Coffin it Up
By Joyce Gemperlein
For some people, having a handcrafted coffin on standby is not a macabre or depressing idea.

A Day for Skeletons and Skulls
By Ray Gonzalez
Family and friends are remembered on the Day of the Dead.

Going in Style
By Joyce Gemperlein
Hearses find new lives in the hands of collectors

When Death Came to Call
By Lesléa Newman
Death, like a furry brown bat with a wingspread as wide as a pterodactyl’s, shrank Himself to the size of a quarter and slipped in through the crack underneath my front door.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Rosa: The Philadelphia Hero

Philly's Joe the Plumber:

Rosa Bonds, 75, a feisty warrior who organized other fearless seniors to battle drug dealers on the streets of East Germantown, died of congestive heart failure Oct. 14 at Einstein at Elkins Park.

In search of a better life, Rosa Mae Rice moved from Spartanburg, S.C., in the fifth grade to live with her aunts in North Philadelphia. After graduating from William Penn High School, she married George Bonds in 1952, and the couple raised five children in Tioga.

Mrs. Bonds moved her family in 1960 to a white stone Victorian twin on quiet, leafy Pastorius Street off Germantown Avenue - still searching for that better life. When gangs, drugs, guns, firebombs and prostitution plagued her neighborhood, she decided to fight instead of run.

A block captain and ward leader for decades, Mrs. Bonds, who ran for state representative a couple of times, was vice president of the Germantown Community Improvement Alliance in the 1970s. She and about a dozen neighbors boarded up drug houses and chased off dealers. They patrolled neighborhoods throughout the city with community organizers such as C.B. Kimmins and the Guardian Angels.

In the 1980s, Mrs. Bonds founded East Germantown Against Drugs (EGAD) with Willie Witherspoon. She marched with ward leader Joseph C. Messa and District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham, who fought for city funding for the antidrug task forces.

"Most of the members were seniors," Kimmins said. "Rosa was a tiny, courageous fighter. She was not afraid of anyone."

At 60, Mrs. Bonds was the youngest in her group in 1993. About a dozen strong, the stubborn band of seniors did battle three to five nights a week on the shadowy drug corners in East Germantown, such as one near Baynton and Pastorius Streets. They covered their white hair with white EGAD helmets, wore blue jackets, and shined flashlights at dealers.

One night in 1994, a young thug turned off Osceola Street onto Pastorius with an arrogant strut. Mrs. Bonds, who knew many of the dealers and users in the neighborhood, said, "This one's a dealer."

She raised her megaphone and blared in a threatening, taunting voice: "Drug dealer, drug dealer, drug dealer, drug dealer, drug dealer."

The thug did not stop, so Mrs. Bonds launched another chant: "You can run, but you can't hide. We charge you with genocide."

The punk waved a plastic bag of drugs at the group, but he did not sell them that night on that street. The corner belonged to the 5-foot-3 grandmother and her courageous band of warriors.

Four generations lived in Mrs. Bonds' home, and all of them were cheated by crime. She taught her children at a young age to stay away from the window and hit the floor if they heard a shot.

"My mother worked at the Obama headquarters at Wayne and Chelten Avenues until two weeks before her death," son Chester said. "She had a stack of voter-registration forms inside our front door. Anyone who came in had to register. If she saw drug dealers outside, she went out there with a fistful of forms and said, 'I hate you, and I want you out of here, but register to vote first.' "

In addition to her son Chester, Mrs. Bonds is survived sons George and William Sr., daughters Rosalind and Anor, and 10 grandchildren. Her husband died in 1999.

A funeral service was held Oct. 18.

Memorial donations may be sent to Mothers in Charge, Allegheny Business Center, 2233 W. Allegheny Ave., Philadelphia 19132.

Contact staff writer Gayle Ronan Sims at 215-854-4185 or

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Dead Economics

For those who love their wry style (like me), Ann Wroe and Keith Colghoun's finest work can be found in the forthcoming "The Economist Book of Obituaries", out next month in time for the festive season (and is that a Monty Python reference on the cover?).

Presumably it went to press too early to include the late lamented Dow Jones.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hearty congratulations

....go out to our very own Jim Sheeler.

Jim's latest book, “Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives,” which was adapted from his Pulitzer Prize-winning work in the Rocky Mountain News about soldiers killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, was named a finalist for a National Book Award.

Nicely done!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

P. J. O'Rourke looks death in the eye

Gayle Sims, Philadelphia Inquirer obituary writer, shares this P. J. O'Rourke opinion piece from Sept. 28, 2008, that caught her attention in the Los Angeles Times.

In the article titled "Give Me Liberty, and Give Me Death", O'Rourke writes: I looked death in the face. All right, I didn't. I glimpsed him in a crowd. I've been diagnosed with cancer, of a very treatable kind.

As O'Rourke goes on to talk about facing - or at least thinking about - his own mortality, he offers thoughts on the concepts of death, science and God.

He writes: No doubt death is one of those mysterious ways in which God famously works. Except, on consideration, death isn't mysterious. Do we really want everyone to be around forever?

A longer version of this fun-to-read, intriguing, amusing and somewhat religious story (strike the "somewhat") was published in Search Magazine.