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Archive: Patricia Sullivan

Posted at 8:00 AM ET, 10/21/2009

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning.

If you've ever served on a jury, you've probably noticed the court reporter, sitting over a little machine taking notes at the speed of speech. Coley Griffin was a court reporter, but he used a fountain pen with purple ink. He took notes at 260 words per minute, despite witnesses with thick brogues and technical experts spouting terms such as oxyacetylene and potassium dichromate. He died Sunday at age 92.

OK, I passed this obit yesterday but found that people are wild about it -- mostly because Vic Mizzy wrote the earwigs of the TV show theme songs for the Addams Famly and Green Acres. Good luck getting these low-rent tunes out of your head today.

Sheldon Segal who led the team that developed the first significant birth control since the Pill, died Saturday. He created the intrauterine device Mirena, but his most notable breakthrough came with Norplant.

Marjorie L. Nagle, 92 years old when she died, is remembered by residents of Carroll County, Maryland for the ice cream she and her family made at their general store since the early 1920s. All ice cream that is sold is wrapped in newspaper -- Hey! Here's a way to save the newspaper industry!

Time for me to head off to the newsroom and do my part. Have a lively day, everyone.



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Posted at 8:15 AM ET, 10/20/2009

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning.

Some cult leaders are ridiculous, and others are just sad, but few are as successful as Elizabeth Clare Prophet, or "Guru Ma," spiritual leader of the Church Universal and Triumphant. Outsiders looking in saw a dangerous collection of people and guns who didn't trust outsiders, willing to believe nuclear annihilation was on its way.

Howard Unruh killed 13 of his neighbors in East Camden, N.J. in 1949. A paranoid schizophrenic, he told police "I'm no psycho." He was never found competent to stand trial after the killing spree and spent the rest of his life in a mental hopsital. He died Monday.

Let's turn away from the bizarre and criminal. Helen Henry spent the majority of her 89 years working and protesting for the rights of the dispossessed, the overlooked and the downtrodden. Even into her 80s she was marching with the American Indian Coalition. She died Sept. 26.

The British papers are full of obits for Sir Ludovic Kennedy, who fought unjust convictions and campaigned for legalization of euthanasia, died Oct. 18.

In Australia, Graeme ''Woody'' Gooding, a forest professional who was intensely passionate about conserving the Australian bush while using it wisely, has died of cancer at a hospice in Kew. He was 55.

Andy MacKenzie, Royal Canadian Air Force pilot, was shot down -- twice -- by friendly fire in two wars. He also spent 24 months in a harsh Chinese prison where "Every minute was an hour and every hour was a day and every day was a week. Nobody knew I was still alive. Every day, [the Chinese] reminded me they could shoot me and nobody would know the difference." He died of cancer in Kemptville, Ont., on Sept. 21.

This next two obits appear here thanks to Matthew Kruk and the community at alt.obits newsgroup: The Akuntsu tribe in the Brazilian Amazon has lost its oldest member, UrurĂº, leaving the tribe with only five surviving members, according to a New Zealand news source. Unrelated: The Iowa doctor who perfected a non-surgical treatment for clubfoot in infants has also died.

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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 10/16/2009

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning on a rainy Friday (at my house, anyway).

Were your hopes of becoming the next Wilt Chamberlain dashed when you failed to shoot up past 4-foot-10, sprout? Did your layout lay about and when you set a pick, others picked you off? Is that what's troubling you, bunky? Well, shake off those blues and be like James "Blinky" Brown and have a hand in basketball history by opening the gym for the future Wilts.

An Oakland, Calif. physician known for fighting HIV/AIDS has himself died. Dr. Robert C. Scott III was renowned for giving free treatment to indigent patients in Oakland, spreading awareness of and compassion for sufferers of the illness and even setting up a volunteer practice in Zimbabwe.

Margo Wilson, an evolutionary psychologist, shed light on why animals - human and non-human - kill each other, attack their spouses and experience jealousy. "Men lay claim to particular women as songbirds lay claim to territories, as lions lay claim to a kill, or as people of both sexes lay claim to valuables," she once wrote.

If you ever doubt the hold that American football holds on its fans, Rex Plock, a fan of the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers, could educate you. He held off death to watch Nebraska defeat Missouri in a televised football game.

This obit is a little dated, but the Economist weighs in on Reinhard Mohn, who led Bertelsmann, the world's sixth-biggest media group.

For ecologists, burial in the traditional manner poses all kinds of problems. Robert Krulwich, one of the finest American broadcast reporters, considers whether to casket or go au naturel. In other radio news, reader alerted me to the BBC's obituary series, The Last Word, which airs on Fridays. It's not online yet although it will be in a few hours. I've listened to several and they're quite good.

Have a great weekend; I'm off Monday but we'll have someone else sitting in on this shift, so don't forget to come back then.

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Posted at 8:13 AM ET, 10/15/2009

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, insiders.

After the deaths of "Bid 'em up" Bruce Wasserstein, wrestler Captain Lou Albano and Nan Robertson, who chronicled the lawsuit that basically made well-paid careers possible for female journalists, it's going to be interesting to see what news comes today.

William Wayne Justice, whose rulings changed the way the state educated children, treated prisoners and housed its poorest and most vulnerable citizens, has died. Judge Justice -- was there ever a better name for a magistrate? -- ruled that Texas prisons constituted cruel and unusual punishment, which led to sweeping changes. But he thought his most important ruling came in Plyler vs. Doe, which gave the children of illegal immigrants the right to a free public education.

Ah, this country has so much variety. Way down in New Orleans, the grand marshal of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club has died. So well known was Harold Dudley, who imparted a somber grandeur to the funeral processions he led for three decades, that a local joke says "If you were in the hospital and you knew Dudley was coming, you woke up right away. You recuperated fast."

South African saxophonist Winston Monwabisi Mankunku Ngozi bridged the gap between South African and American jazz music. "His compositions are already standards, they're anthems for South African jazz music," said Cape Town International Jazz Festival organiser Rashid Lombard.

Bob Westmoreland, a Hollywood makeup artist best known for "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "Hill Street Blues," died in Hawaii Oct. 6.

Remember the sculptor whose giant inflatable artwork broke free from its moorings in July 2006, killing two women when they fell from the Dreamscape sculpture? Maurice Agis has died in Spain.

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Posted at 4:28 PM ET, 10/14/2009

Death of Nan Robertson

Nan Robertson, 83, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who wrote about her nearly fatal struggle with toxic shock syndrome, then wrote a book about gender discrimination that's become a standard text in journalism, died last night of heart disease at Collingswood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Rockville. She lived in Bethesda.
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She survived toxic shock syndrome, alcoholism, sex discrimination and three husbands. Eight months ago, the Washington Press Foundation gave her a lifetime achievement award for her ground-breaking book "The Girls in the Balcony: Men, Women and the New York Times." A wonderful video from that ceremony can be found at this link; the portion about her starts at about 15 minutes and runs five minutes.

The photo above is one of Nan's favorites; it's shot by Helen Marcus of New York.

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The Daily Goodbye

Good autumn morning. Raise a glass (but just one) to Joseph Barboriak, who found that a few drinks a day helps to lower choloesterol. But no more than one or two and no more than one ounce of the hard stuff. Al Martino whose smooth ballad crooning was popular in...

By Patricia Sullivan | October 14, 2009; 08:24 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, all. A Jewish refugee who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, helped liberate Nuremburg, interrogated Nazi war criminals and then helped RCA create color television has died. Richard Sonnenfeldt died Friday at his home in Port Washington, N.Y. after 86 years of changing the world. The first...

By Patricia Sullivan | October 13, 2009; 08:15 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning! Harriett Allen, who knew a good desert when she saw one, has died after of lifetime of protecting the dry California environment. In her early 80s, a fellow activist spotted her in the Mojave Desert "camped in her sleeping bag at a 5,000-foot elevation -- and loving it."...

By Patricia Sullivan | October 12, 2009; 08:11 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, and farewell to Ben Ali. Pedro Elias Zadunaisky, an Argentine astronomer and mathematician whose calculations helped determine the orbit of Saturn's outermost moon, Phoebe, as well as Halley's Comet, died Wednesday. He was 91. Lest you think all shoemaking has been outsourced to high-end Italy or low-end Asian...

By Patricia Sullivan | October 9, 2009; 08:15 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, readers. There's nothing newspaper writers like better, other than other ink-stained wretches, than photographers, and Irving Penn's death yesterday brought out the full range of obits from the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe and the Associated Press. Just as Washington...

By Patricia Sullivan | October 8, 2009; 09:02 AM ET | Comments (0)

Russert's Office to Museum

I guess the display of Julia Child's kitchen in the Smithsonian broke the ground for this type of thing, but it's still startling to see that broadcaster Tim Russert's office will be displayed in the Newseum next month. Russert, who just died in June 2008, was a working stiff, but...

By Patricia Sullivan | October 7, 2009; 04:24 PM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, everyone. Rev. Angus Finucane, a Dublin priest who became a missionary to Africa, died Tuesday. "There can be few Irish people, of his generation or of any other generation, who have contributed as much to improving the lives of so much of humanity," said the current head of...

By Patricia Sullivan | October 7, 2009; 08:16 AM ET | Comments (2)

Dying Too Soon?

One of our ace health reporters asked and answered the important question: Are Americans dying too soon? The answer is yes. In this front-page story, Ceci Connolly writes "When it comes to "preventable deaths" -- an array of illnesses and injuries that should not kill at an early age --...

By Patricia Sullivan | October 6, 2009; 01:11 PM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning. Just the thought of a cup of Coca-Cola in a cake makes my tongue shrivel this morning, but it was popular with Bernice Watson's family, friends and (of course!) customers of the Coke cafeteria in Atlanta. Alvena Smith Lupo, the manager of a New Orleans movie house who...

By Patricia Sullivan | October 6, 2009; 08:10 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning and welcome to Friday. I'll bet you never thought about the history of dentistry. Dr. John M. Hyson Jr. could have filled you in. Before his death last weekend, he wrote about the history of the toothbrush, George Washington's dental health and his wooden dentures, African-American contract dental...

By Patricia Sullivan | October 2, 2009; 08:09 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good (brrr) morning. If you want to be really chilly, read about Charles Houston's adventures in the Himalayas. He almost gasped his last in 1953 during an epic retreat on K2, the world's second highest mountain, and later immersed himself in the study of why we get sick at high...

By Patricia Sullivan | October 1, 2009; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning! We in the obituaries game love librarians and researchers and archivists of all kinds so the Philadelphia Daily News obit of Keith Doms doesn't surprise in the least. "There is something magical about walking through the Free Library's main branch with Keith Doms, something enchanting and exhilarating, like...

By Patricia Sullivan | September 30, 2009; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning everyone. Former president Guillermo Endara, who led Panama to democracy after the U.S. invasion that toppled dictator Gen. Manuel Noriega, died Monday. He was 73. Maybe you didn't know that Milwaukee, that stalwart blue-collar city in the middle of the U.S., had a Socialist mayor for a dozen...

By Patricia Sullivan | September 29, 2009; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning already. In case you didn't hear the news yesterday, conservative political columnist and "oracle of language" William Safire died Sunday. Lovely obit by Timesman Robert D. McFadden; our own cleanup hitter, Joe Holley, penned a quick piece on deadline. Donald G. Fisher, co-founder of the Gap, has died....

By Patricia Sullivan | September 28, 2009; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Fed's Canary in the Meltdown

As I read the investigation into the Federal Reserve on the front page of this morning's Washington Post, I remembered an obit from about two years ago of a Fed governor, Ed Gramlich. Sure enough, not far into the story about how the Fed failed in its duty to enforce...

By Patricia Sullivan | September 27, 2009; 12:14 PM ET | Comments (4)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, all. Susan Atkins, convicted of eight murders for her part in the Charles Manson gang that perpetrated a 1969 mass murder, has died in prison. She broke open the case when she bragged of her participation in the slayings to cellmates; she also taunted her jury that they...

By Patricia Sullivan | September 25, 2009; 08:32 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, everyone. We have a trio of obits about medical researchers: Leon Eisenberg, a pioneer in autism studies; Eloise Giblett, whose work on blood made transfusions safer; and John J. Wild, who invented a way to find tumors using ultrasound. You have to like a guy who kept old...

By Patricia Sullivan | September 24, 2009; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning. Who thinks over a seafood dinner of the fisherman who risked his life for the scallops? Martin Manley started out as a deckhand and became a cook and engineer as he worked his way up to captain. In 1954, he made headlines for bringing back a record-setting 42,000-pound...

By Patricia Sullivan | September 23, 2009; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, and welcome to autumn. A Dallas-based federal judge, Jerry Buchmeyer, who died Monday, made at least two landmark rulings that had impact beyond Texas. In 1985, he ordered relief for public housing families that ultimately changed how many other cities handle public housing. And he also ruled that...

By Patricia Sullivan | September 22, 2009; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good Monday morning, weekend athletes and underachievers alike. Arthur Ferrante, of those lush, piano-driven movie tunes in the 1960s, died this weekend in Longboat Key, Fla. His musical partner, Lou Teicher, died just a year ago. Zalman Lavan saw the future in solar energy back in the 1970s and moved...

By Patricia Sullivan | September 21, 2009; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning. A physician and politician, Stanley Haidasz played a major role in bringing medicare to all Canadians, passing the Canadian Pension Plan and the Clean Air Act. He was the country's first multiculturalism minister. He died last month in Toronto. Linda C. Black, who wrote those newspaper horoscopes that...

By Patricia Sullivan | September 18, 2009; 08:17 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, obit fans. Here's a thoughtful piece on why it seems that so many celebrities have died this past summer. In sum, it's not them, it's us. And along those lines, we learned of the deaths yesterday of Henry Gibson of Laugh-In, Mary Travers of the folk trio Peter,...

By Patricia Sullivan | September 17, 2009; 08:25 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, compadres. Juan Almeida Bosque, a comrade of Fidel Castro since the start of his guerrilla struggle more than half a century ago, died of a heart attack Friday in Havana, government media announced. He was 82. Zakes Mokae, the Tony-winning South African actor who appeared in such films...

By Patricia Sullivan | September 16, 2009; 08:18 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, after a late night. Nothing like a pair of big obits late in the day to get your motor running. I speak, of course, about Patrick Swayze and Jody Powell, an unlikely pair who died within hours of each other. The real-life Norma Rae, Crystal Lee Sutton, died...

By Patricia Sullivan | September 15, 2009; 08:20 AM ET | Comments (0)

Punk Rocker, Poet Dies, Dies

Jim Carroll, 60, a poet-turned-punk rocker whose book "The Basketball Diaries" chronicled his descent from elite high school basketball star to Times Square drug addict, thief and prostitute, died Sept. 11 at his home in Manhattan after a heart attack. In addition to the autobiographical account of his early teen...

By Patricia Sullivan | September 14, 2009; 04:10 PM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, readers. After a battery of deaths over the weekend, including the truly estimable Norman Borlaug, what do we have this morning? A notable fly fisherman, whose prose, as quoted, reminds me of Norman Maclean (and if you don't know who he is, you probably shouldn't read tales of...

By Patricia Sullivan | September 14, 2009; 08:31 AM ET | Comments (2)

The Daily Goodbye

Good rainy morning, and what a sendoff for the founder of the Weather Channel. The 1960s division between hardhats and hippies was often more rhetoric than fact, as shown by the life of David Irish Sullivan (no relation), a social and political activist who became a construction worker himself. True...

By Patricia Sullivan | September 11, 2009; 08:08 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good healthy morning. You may have never heard of Ernesta Rachel Dunbar, but maybe you just aren't worldly enough. She was very big in Taiwan, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates and elsewhere in Asia. In the U.S., she performed with Philly soul singer Teddy Pendergrass, saxophonist Grover Washington...

By Patricia Sullivan | September 10, 2009; 08:25 AM ET | Comments (1)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning. It's interesting to note the impact of a movie on contemporaneous obits. Take the hit film "Julie and Julia," Nora Ephron's homage to chef Julia Child. I'm thinking that without it, we would have paid a lot less attention to the deaths of Sylvia Schur and Silver Palate...

By Patricia Sullivan | September 9, 2009; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Happy Labor Day, workers of the world, and all those who toil for a medium of exchange. Robert Spinrad, director of Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center when the technology that led directly to the modern personal computer, the ethernet local area network and the laser printer was developed, has died....

By Patricia Sullivan | September 7, 2009; 08:08 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, all. The retail empire Talbot's is a godsend for the professional woman over the age of 35 who faces a universe of shopping geared toward the pubescent, trendy, non-serious fashionistas. A woman was behind that empire: Nancy Talbot, a self-described "pushy Midwesterner" who with her husband turned a...

By Patricia Sullivan | September 4, 2009; 08:02 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning. A little bit of history and a little bit of bizarro news this morning. Elizabeth Mary Leen may not have been able to stop a man from attacking her daughter but she showed a mother's fierce will for the next 28 years, working tirelessly to prevent the man...

By Patricia Sullivan | September 3, 2009; 07:57 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning! Even if you've never endured the July 4 crowds on Washington's subway, the voracious mosquitoes on the National Mall and life-sapping humidity along the Potomac River to listen to the concert and see the fireworks, you probably heard Erich Kunzel's work. He was the guest conductor of the...

By Patricia Sullivan | September 2, 2009; 08:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

RIP Summer of Obits

Farewell to the summer of big obits. Much has been said about the spate of deaths this summer -- including how much attention obits should give to human flaws that border on criminality -- but we're here to give you just the facts ma'am. So here's my list, with the...

By Patricia Sullivan | August 31, 2009; 10:38 AM ET | Comments (5)

The Daily Goodbye

Good Monday morning, everyone. Thanks to Hollywood, we're used to thinking of test pilots as daredevils. Lew Wallick sounds like anything but that. He was Boeing's chief test pilot and was pilot or co-pilot on the first flights of the Boeing 727, 737, 747SP, 757 and 767. Terri Schiavo's father,...

By Patricia Sullivan | August 31, 2009; 08:11 AM ET | Comments (1)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning! And what a week for obits, eh? The end of August used to the quiet time, when obit writers worked on advance pieces, polished feature stories, considered what needed to be done. I took three days off in the middle of this week and my colleagues handled the...

By Patricia Sullivan | August 28, 2009; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (1)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, all. In case you missed it, the leading ufologist (I still can't believe that's a word) Richard Hall has died. Love the lead, from our ace intern Rick Rojas: "Richard H. Hall was never abducted by aliens and never saw a UFO with his own eyes. Yet his...

By Patricia Sullivan | August 24, 2009; 07:41 AM ET | Comments (1)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, everyone. Cuba's diva, mezzo-soprano Marta Perez, was the first Cuban to sing at Milan's La Scala opera house. You may have seen her on the Ed Sullivan show, unless you run in the La Scala circle. She died this week, at age 85. Here's another musician you may...

By Patricia Sullivan | August 21, 2009; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, all. What a week for obits -- Don Hewitt, Rose Friedman, Kim Dae-jung, Robert Novak -- and we still have two more working days to go. Presented with a set of data, Daryl S. Gilbert's job was to figure out "the touchy-feely stuff to help explain the numbers"...

By Patricia Sullivan | August 20, 2009; 08:59 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, and let's hope all of yesterday's anger in the online comments section is behind us. What the death of a Nobel Prize-winning president of South Korea and the death of longtime conservative columnist Robert Novak, we must have run out room in newsprint for Rose Friedman, the free-market...

By Patricia Sullivan | August 19, 2009; 08:55 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, ardent believers in the end of the recession. Remember, once you've lost your job, your house, your car, you can always sell your cemetery plot. If you're looking for breaking obit news, here it is: Former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, has...

By Patricia Sullivan | August 18, 2009; 08:59 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, all you stay-cationers, essential employees/employers and those otherwise unoccupied with the commerce of the world. Nancy A. Cahill, who died Aug. 4, made her work into others' play. As a historic guide for Philadelphia's Centipede Tours, she dressed in a colonial costume and led visitors through the streets...

By Patricia Sullivan | August 17, 2009; 08:10 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning! My desk may be a mess, but I'm looking at leafed-out flowering trees and blue skies. Life is worth living, as friends and relatives of any of the following people will tell you, as will the Spanish businessman who faked his own death to avoid heavy debts. Blossom...

By Patricia Sullivan | August 14, 2009; 08:04 AM ET | Comments (2)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, readers. Michael Viner, a publisher who specialized in audio books and earned a reputation for quick hits with sensational stories, including O.J. Simpson trial figure Faye Resnick's book about Nicole Brown Simpson, died of cancer Saturday at his Beverly Hills home. He was 65. You have to respect...

By Patricia Sullivan | August 13, 2009; 08:08 AM ET | Comments (2)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning and farewell to Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who proved that you don't have to be president of the United States to make a difference in millions of lives, now and in the future. Florence Foster had the courage of her convictions and when she spotted something at her tiny...

By Patricia Sullivan | August 11, 2009; 07:58 AM ET | Comments (1)

The Daily Goodbye

Good Monday morning, everyone. So little time, so many worlds unknown. Here are a few lives from worlds that are outside my range of knowledge. A punk rock pioneer has died, say those who know punk. Willy DeVille, who founded the punk group Mink DeVille and was known for his...

By Patricia Sullivan | August 10, 2009; 08:03 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, readers. How could you possibly be expected to handle school (work, chores) on a day like this? Have you voted yet on which of John Hughes' films (cough... Ferris Bueller... cough) was his greatest? Robert M. Takasugi was what we all seek in a federal judge: compassion for...

By Patricia Sullivan | August 7, 2009; 08:09 AM ET | Comments (1)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, fans and newcomers. Last night, perhaps after you shut down your electronic devices, came word that screenwriter Budd Schulberg died. Who was he, you ask? Really famous in the 1950s for writing "On the Waterfront," "A Face in the Crowd" and "What Makes Sammy Run?" and for being...

By Patricia Sullivan | August 6, 2009; 08:16 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Vietnam War That Never Ends

Vietnam still resonates in the American body politic after nearly 40 years. The obit I wrote for today's paper, of Lt. Gen. Julian J. Ewell, is a case in point. Gen. Ewell was a top commander in Vietnam during the 1968-70 period and in the latter half of that period...

By Patricia Sullivan | August 5, 2009; 01:45 PM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Eight kids in 11 years -- is there much more about the life of Muriel R. Halliday that you need to know? How about the death of a husband? A full-time job to boot? No car. Church every morning. "Don't think she was the little woman in the shoe. She...

By Patricia Sullivan | August 5, 2009; 08:23 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

The first black supermodel, Naomi Sims, died in Newark Saturday. Entrepreneurial skills helped her break into the business and later helped her as she started her own business, which made her rich. Not only can you teach an old dog new tricks, but that dog's brain can grow as he...

By Patricia Sullivan | August 4, 2009; 08:11 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning! Savor this August heat because the brittle January cold is closer than any of us want to admit. One of the most beautiful places on earth, Big Sur on California's Central Coast, always has that cooling Pacific breeze. Billy Post, a native of the area and a storyteller...

By Patricia Sullivan | August 3, 2009; 08:08 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Morning, all. Welcome to Friday. Have you had the yen to run away to the sea? Warren Titus made that possible, even if just for a week or 10 days. He was one of the fathers of the modern cruise concept; he helped convert staid British liners into cruise ships,...

By Patricia Sullivan | July 31, 2009; 08:18 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, readers. It's high summer in the sultry, humid portion of the Northern Hemisphere but instead of languishing by a pool with a cool drink and uncounted millions, we (and you) soldier on. Reverend Ike, who preached the blessings of material prosperity to nationwide television and radio audiences, has...

By Patricia Sullivan | July 30, 2009; 08:12 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning (and isn't it a wonder how having a houseguest will get you up and going early? I propose a new Twitter hashtag: #NoExcusesWednesday.) You may not remember a time when people found jobs via newspaper want ads, but way back in the 1960s, children, you looked for work...

By Patricia Sullivan | July 29, 2009; 08:05 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Merce Cunningham's obit, from three sources: Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times -- which one works best? Seriously, we'd love to hear your thoughts. A World War II escape and evasion adventure marked the life of Virgil R. Marco. After he got home, he went into insurance but...

By Patricia Sullivan | July 28, 2009; 08:13 AM ET | Comments (1)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, all (and is it already Monday again?). A music critic who helped teach audience how to listen to symphonies, concertos and choral works, Michael Steinberg died of colon cancer Sunday at N.C. Little Hospice in Edina, Minn. Jim King, a Florida legislator who gave Floridians the right to...

By Patricia Sullivan | July 27, 2009; 08:27 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning readers and scanners. I could fill up the post this morning just with good obits from the Washington Post itself. Check 'em out: Mollie D. Somerville who got her start as a writer and researcher working for Eleanor Roosevelt in the White House. Rebecca Lipkin, a globe-trotting producer...

By Patricia Sullivan | July 24, 2009; 08:21 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, readers. Yet another celebrity death: Gidget, the bug-eyed, big-eared Chihuahua, star of 1990s Taco Bell commercials, died of a stroke at the age of 15. John Dawson, founder and lead singer of the psychedelic country-rock group "New Riders of the Purple Sage" with the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia,...

By Patricia Sullivan | July 23, 2009; 08:10 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Simple rewards -- a hug, a word of praise -- have power beyond reckoning. That's the insight Sidney W. Bijou applied to treating troubled children. His insight and techniques helped establish modern behavioral therapy for childhood disorders like autism and attention deficit disorder. He died on June 11 at his...

By Patricia Sullivan | July 22, 2009; 08:18 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

A master potter, Otto Heino who reformulated a lost-to-the-ages Chinese glaze that made him a multimillionaire, died last week of acute renal failure. He was 94 and still threw 30 pots a day, packed and shipped all his orders. Good video attached. Like duct tape, WD-40 is one of those...

By Patricia Sullivan | July 21, 2009; 08:08 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Good Life Is...

What makes a life a good life? Is it career success, monetary wealth, power? Is it winning the race, winning the woman or man, winning at any of the jousts that life offers? Or is it simply enjoying fulfilling relationships? The Atlantic magazine's June issue had a cover story headlined...

By Patricia Sullivan | July 20, 2009; 01:14 PM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Morning, all. I guesss you've heard by now that Frank McCourt, who wrote the deeply sad but lyrical memoir, "Angela's Ashes," about his Irish boyhood, died yesterday in New York. Through it, he said, "I learned the significance of my own insignificant life." Dr. Yury Verlinsky, who died of colon...

By Patricia Sullivan | July 20, 2009; 08:05 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Feeling a little sluggish this morning? Wishing you could just loll about? You may have a case of the mid-summer lazies, but probably not chronic fatigue syndrome, which Theodore Van Zeist helped define, after a notable career in soils testing. Since you don't have CFS, maybe you just need a...

By Patricia Sullivan | July 10, 2009; 08:13 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

I've been looking for a good obit of Oscar G. Meyer all morning, but no one seemed to take advantage of the opportunity. So here's a straightforward version, at least. (Good luck getting the "I wish I were an Oscar Meyer weiner" ditty out of your head this morning.) Australia's...

By Patricia Sullivan | July 9, 2009; 08:09 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Anyone who's ever picked up a Fender Telecaster or Stratocaster has handled George Fullerton's work. Fender, the genius of electric guitar innovation, turned to Fullerton to make his instruments practical for mass production in their factory that opened in the late 1940s. Riverboat gambling has overtaken my old hometown and...

By Patricia Sullivan | July 8, 2009; 08:17 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

The lead guitarist of the wonderfully campy rock group Paul Revere and the Raiders has died. Drake Levin and the band had quite a back story -- and is likely the only rock group to have come out of Boise, Idaho. Just for his prodigious memory alone, Joseph B. Codd...

By Patricia Sullivan | July 7, 2009; 08:31 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, readers. Robert S. McNamara, 93, Secretary of Defense under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson during the Vietnam War, and later the president of the World Bank, died this morning. You read it here first. Togo W. Tanaka, a former journalist and businessman whose reports on life inside the Manzanar...

By Patricia Sullivan | July 6, 2009; 08:11 AM ET | Comments (2)

The Daily Goodbye

Herbert G. Klein, a newspaperman and longtime Nixon aide, died after a heart attack Thursday in La Jolla, Calif. at age 91. He worked for Nixon through many elections and was his White House communications director through part of the Watergate scandal, leaving in 1973. You can achieve your mark...

By Patricia Sullivan | July 3, 2009; 08:17 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

We have a double compare-and-contrast game this morning. Karl Malden's obit in the Washington Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times. And then there's boxer-politician Alexis Arguello from your favorite news organization, or the Grey Lady or the Left Coast. Comments, critiques, collective dismissals are up to you. After...

By Patricia Sullivan | July 2, 2009; 08:10 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, and welcome to July. The world's only one-handed, one-hooked piano player, as Michael Deutsch billed himself, died of cancer. He was a bass guitar player until he lost his left hand in a machine shop accident, then switched to piano and used his problem-solving skills to adapt the...

By Patricia Sullivan | July 1, 2009; 08:05 AM ET | Comments (2)

The Daily Goodbye

Wow, the king of pop and Gen X's favorite pinup girl both died yesterday, on the heels of Ed McMahon's death a day earlier. Regarding the unexpected death of Michael Jackson, there are about a million sidebars, retrospectives, deconstructions of both, not to mention the fan gatherings. Let's see if...

By Patricia Sullivan | June 26, 2009; 07:59 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, all. A particularly interesting set of obits awaits us this morning, starting with news broken yesterday of the death of Dr. Jerri Nielsen FitzGerald, the doctor who while posted to the South Pole, diagnosed and treated herself for breast cancer. Once again, we have multiple versions: the Boston...

By Patricia Sullivan | June 25, 2009; 08:15 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

We have more details on the victims of the Washington D.C. subway train crash of two days ago. News of Ed McMahon's death broke just as we were posting yesterday. Here are a few of his obits, from the Washington Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times. Tell us...

By Patricia Sullivan | June 24, 2009; 08:23 AM ET | Comments (1)

The Daily Goodbye

This just in: TV's Tonight Show sidekick Ed McMahon has died of cancer. On a morning when all of Washington DC is mourning the people who died in a needless subway system crash, we turn to other deaths around the world. Neda Agha-Soltan, the Iranian woman who died on...

By Patricia Sullivan | June 23, 2009; 08:24 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning, readers, and welcome to summer. Dorothy Waggoner worked for better inspections and enforcement of nursing home regulations in Milwaukee most of her life. When she opened a bed and breakfast in the small town of Menomonee Falls, Wis., suspicious residents "thought we were going to run a brothel,"...

By Patricia Sullivan | June 22, 2009; 08:22 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Hortensia Bussi, the widow of Chilean President Salvador Allende who helped lead opposition to the military dictatorship that ousted her socialist husband in a bloody 1973 coup, died Thursday. She was 94. Helen Boosalis, the first female president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, died in Lincoln, Neb. earlier this...

By Patricia Sullivan | June 19, 2009; 08:17 AM ET | Comments (0)

From D.C. to Antarctica

Edith "Jackie" Ronne grew up "scrubbing the steps" of her Baltimore home, her daughter said, and knew one thing -- she wanted a life different from what she saw. She spent a couple of years at a college in Ohio, then moved to Washington, living with her aunt and uncle...

By Christopher Dean Hopkins | June 18, 2009; 06:00 AM ET | Comments (1)

The Daily Goodbye

Compare and contrast: the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post versions of an obit for Ventures co-founder Bob Bogle. (We'll refrain from noting that we told you about this yesterday -- oops...) Which one do you prefer? There was a time when Motorola was a leader...

By Patricia Sullivan | June 17, 2009; 08:11 AM ET | Comments (2)

The Daily Goodbye

An advocate for the deaf, Marcella M. Meyer has died at age 84. She played a key role in establishing a California telephone service that relayed messages between the hearing and the hearing-impaired and led to the development of a nationwide system. If you've ever stayed at the great old...

By Patricia Sullivan | June 16, 2009; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Traffic Kills Walkers, Bikers

Nearly half of the 1.2 million people killed in traffic accidents around the world each year are not in cars. They are on motorcycles or bicycles or walking along the side of the road, according to a story by the Post's esteemed medical writer, David Brown. In the United States,...

By Patricia Sullivan | June 15, 2009; 12:23 PM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Ron Richards discovered the Hollies, recorded the Beatles "Love Me Do" and recommended the replacement of Pete Best as their drummer. So why haven't we heard until now that he died April 30? A Tuskegee Airman who fought for equal treatment in the military, and whose reward was a fine...

By Patricia Sullivan | June 15, 2009; 08:33 AM ET | Comments (0)

Lucy in Sky with Diamonds muse ill

Lucy Vodden, the woman who was the inspiration for the Beatles "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" song is gravely ill, AP reports. She never dug the description of herself as the "girl with kaleidoscope eyes," but millions of LSD users did....

By Patricia Sullivan | June 12, 2009; 01:51 PM ET | Comments (0)

The Funeral Director's Art

Mostly we think about a person's life when writing or reading obituaries. But there's no denying that these stories are triggered by death, and in death, a funeral director and his or her staff directly handle issues that most of us never think about. One of those issues is make-up....

By Patricia Sullivan | June 10, 2009; 12:21 PM ET | Comments (0)

Calling Santa Claus

Joe Holley's fine piece about the White House phone engineer this morning immediately reminded me of an obit I'd written last year about the woman who had been in charge of the White House switchboard for years, Mary Burns. In it, I told the story about how she could get...

By Patricia Sullivan | June 8, 2009; 12:30 PM ET | Comments (1)

How Obits Have Changed

Nice piece in Obits magazine about how newspaper obituaries have changed over the years. It seems that the Civil War was a turning point; previously "writers were striving to convey the reality of death without having to state the unpleasant truth that somebody had actually died. So readers learned of...

By Patricia Sullivan | June 8, 2009; 11:19 AM ET | Comments (0)

Best Obit of the Week

What obits are you liking out there? Give us your thoughts throughout the week and on Friday, we'll run a little poll for Best Obit of the Week (BOW -- wow, what an acronym!) You don't have to limit yourself to the Washington Post obits, but if you want to...

By Patricia Sullivan | June 1, 2009; 04:00 PM ET | Comments (6)

A Prolific Pen Silenced

Cy Shain, who has not yet received an obituary in his preferred newspaper, is not forgotten. David Margolick in The Nation writes about the man who was wildly successful at getting his letters to the editor published in the New York Times. Thirty-nine times over the past decade Shain, who...

By Patricia Sullivan | May 29, 2009; 04:00 PM ET | Comments (0)

Champion of Haitian Refugees

A man who dedicated his life to helping the dirt-poor refugees from Haiti when no one else was paying attention has died in Miami. Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, who ran the Haitian Refugee Center in Miami and who laid down before trucks to insist on civil rights when the U.S. government...

By Patricia Sullivan | May 28, 2009; 11:55 AM ET | Comments (0)

The 1970s FBI

From time to time, we get calls or e-mail from researchers and authors doing the legwork necessary for proper history. A writer I know who is working on a history of the FBI contacted me recently to ask for more detail about something I cited in this obituary of Guy...

By Patricia Sullivan | May 27, 2009; 06:09 PM ET | Comments (0)

Obits As Fairy Tales?

The growing popularity of obits comes under scrutiny in this little essay in the online magazine Smart Set. I'm not sure I agree with it all, and I object that her research was limited to a single financially challenged newspaper, but FWIW: [O]bituaries aren't interesting because of what they say...

By Patricia Sullivan | May 5, 2009; 06:04 AM ET | Comments (0)

It's Better to be Lucky...

That old saying, "It's better to be lucky than to be good," certainly applied in the case of Jack "Lucky" Lohrke, who died Wednesday in San Jose, Calif. A major league infielder in the 1940s and 1950s, Lohrke batted .242 with 22 home runs and 96 RBIs in 354 games...

By Patricia Sullivan | April 30, 2009; 11:44 AM ET | Comments (0)

Funeral Malpractice

Our colleague Josh White has been running a series of stories about nefarious practices of Service Corporation International, a Houston-based funeral services conglomerate that is facing allegations of mishandling as many as 200 bodies over the past year at a central preparation facility in Falls Church. SCI owns more than...

By Patricia Sullivan | April 29, 2009; 04:22 PM ET | Comments (0)

Death and A Spreadsheet

One of the things people seem to find fascinating about obituaries is how there are seasons to the obit year -- more people tend to die over the winter holidays and at the end of winter, we've noticed. When we get a bad weather month, the number of requests for...

By Patricia Sullivan | April 24, 2009; 06:00 AM ET | Comments (2)

Stress and Suicide

One of the saddest stories in today's Washington Post outlines the suicide of David B. Kellermann, the Freddie Mac executive who was found dead yesterday. Overstressed, under the pressure of turning the housing giant around, and a long-time employee committed to the agency's success, Mr. Kellerman lost money and privacy....

By Patricia Sullivan | April 23, 2009; 02:19 PM ET | Comments (1)

The High Cost of Death

Big spender or thrifty consumer? That question is confronting all of us in these times of economic strife, even when we are faced with some of the last expenses for a loved one. The average funeral in the United States costs $7,323, according to a Washington Post story on the...

By Patricia Sullivan | April 20, 2009; 02:03 PM ET | Comments (1)

Stephen Hawking Ill

Stephen W. Hawking, the British theoretical astrophysicist whom many considered the greatest scientific mind since Einstein, has been rushed to the hospital and is reportedly very ill. Two weeks ago, he canceled his appearance as the headliner at Arizona State University's Origins Symposium, reportedly recovering from a chest infection. The...

By Patricia Sullivan | April 20, 2009; 11:48 AM ET | Comments (0)

Social Media for the Fictional Dead

Since we deal with real people here, it's kind of bizarre to see that Fox television network (the entertainment division) has created an online memorial site and a Facebook memorial for a *character* who died on the series "House." (Thanks to Baltimore Sun critic David Zurawick, on whose blog I...

By Patricia Sullivan | April 7, 2009; 05:26 PM ET | Comments (0)

A Most Dangerous Age

If you're a rock-and-roller, watch out once you hit the age of 27. Thirty-four musicians have left this mortal coil at that age, as Eric Segalstad and Josh Hunter say in their newly published book, "The 27s: The Greatest Myth of Rock & Roll." The 27s include Rolling Stones founder...

By Patricia Sullivan | April 6, 2009; 05:08 PM ET | Comments (3)

No Dignity for the Dead

Here's a story that needs exposure and reaction: National Funeral Home in Falls Church, which acts as a regional clearinghouse that embalms and stores bodies for four other Washington area funeral homes, treated the dead with at best disregard. A witness who worked there said as many as 200 corpses...

By Patricia Sullivan | April 6, 2009; 11:37 AM ET | Comments (1)

March 31 Deaths in History

I started this with only women, to commemorate the last day of Women's History Month. But, darn it, there are some really important men who died on this day, too. So... Eleanor of Aquitaine, 1204 Charlotte Bronte, 1855 Bella Abzug 1998 Terri Schiavo, 2005 Isaac Newton, 1727 J. Pierpont Morgan,...

By Patricia Sullivan | March 31, 2009; 11:42 AM ET | Comments (0)

1970s soft-rock "England Dan" dies

It's hard to keep all those 70s soft-rockers straight, but here's one you might know: Dan Seals, who was part of the duo England Dan and John Ford Coley. Big hit: "I'd Really Love to See You Tonight." (His brother was Jimmy Seals of Seals and Croft.) Oddly enough, the...

By Patricia Sullivan | March 27, 2009; 01:00 PM ET | Comments (0)

Generations upon generations

I just wrote an obit that should appear in the next day or two about a D.C. teacher who died at the age of 103. She had two husbands (not at the same time), a son, three stepchildren, eight grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren, 10 great-great-grandchildren and a great-great-great-grandson, just three months...

By Patricia Sullivan | March 26, 2009; 01:44 PM ET | Comments (0)

Historian John Hope Franklin Dies

Duke University professor John Hope Franklin, 94, a revered historian of life in the South and the African-American experience, died Wednesday of congestive heart failure at Duke University's hospital in Durham. Here's the 29-inch AP version of his obit. Author of the seminal "From Slavery to Freedom: A History of...

By Patricia Sullivan | March 25, 2009; 03:28 PM ET | Comments (15)

Updike on Conclusions

Like many who subscribe to the New Yorker, I habitually fall behind reading them. That's why I was reading through the March 16 issue last night when I came upon a collection of poems by John Updike, who died Jan. 27, called "Endpoint." It's a remarkable collection, and I understand...

By Patricia Sullivan | March 25, 2009; 12:54 PM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

A handful of pretty interesting obits came to my attention this morning: Martin P. "Marty" Knowlton, a world traveler who fought ageism by co-founding Elderhostel. When he was about 50, Knowlton became highly annoyed by two things: the prevailing wisdom that "as you got older, your mind automatically began to...

By Patricia Sullivan | March 20, 2009; 10:46 AM ET | Comments (1)

We Happy Few

A question has arisen in some comments about why all of us are smiling in that row of mug shots atop this column. Aside from the fact that they promised us extra money for doing this blog (not), and we envision fame as well as fortune from it (ha!), the...

By Patricia Sullivan | March 19, 2009; 06:03 PM ET | Comments (0)

March 12 deaths

2008 -- Howard Metzenbaum, Ohio senator 2003 -- Lynne Thigpen, actress 2001 -- Henry Lee Lucas, murderer 1999 -- Yehudi Menuhin, violinist 1955 -- Charlie "Bird" Parker, jazz musician 1945 -- Anne Frank, diarist...

By Patricia Sullivan | March 12, 2009; 03:36 PM ET | Comments (0)

Philanthropist, Physician, Grocer and Frozen Food Magnate

Leonore Annenberg, chief of protocol under President Reagan and the widow of billionaire publisher Walter Annenberg who continued his tradition of philanthropy and patronage of the arts, died Thursday. She was 91. Longer version. Anthony J. Rouse , owner of a regional grocery store which prides itself on stocking...

By Patricia Sullivan | March 12, 2009; 11:45 AM ET | Comments (0)

Immigrants and Obits

We're a country of immigrants, from those who crossed into North America across the Bering Straits to those who arrived with H1-B visas this morning. What's often impressive is how much immigrants accomplish once they get to the U.S. I noticed a handful of obits lately that spell this out:...

By Patricia Sullivan | March 11, 2009; 12:10 PM ET | Comments (0)

The Weird and Wonderful

We're finishing up (we hope) one of the busiest times of the year for news obits here (the December holidays and the end of winter are typically our busiest times) and there are some great stories that happened outside our region that we just didn't get to do. One is...

By Patricia Sullivan | March 10, 2009; 11:27 AM ET | Comments (0)

How Many Womanhours Lost...

Whenever I write an obit about a socialite, such as Virginia Warren Daly, I'm reminded of how far we are from those days of society balls and the social season. The amount of time a "certain class" of women devoted to parties! The expense of it all! The amount of...

By Patricia Sullivan | March 4, 2009; 03:44 PM ET | Comments (0)

Ego-Googling for all ages

You don't have to be under 40 to be adept at the latest technology, as many people know who read obits know. Lauren Wiseman, the newest addition to the obits desk, chortled this afternoon when reporting a feature on a Holocaust survivor who recently died. Lauren asked a friend of...

By Patricia Sullivan | March 4, 2009; 01:31 AM ET | Comments (0)

Paul Harvey: Good Day

By now you've seen the news about Paul Harvey; perhaps you haven't HEARD him. Ace Post columnist Marc Fisher, who knows radio, has a great reminiscence here -- it's an excerpt from his book, "Something in the Air: Radio, Rock and the Revolution That Shaped A Generation." Also, on...

By Patricia Sullivan | March 2, 2009; 10:31 AM ET | Comments (0)

Two Chicago Bulls Legends Die

On the day after the Chicago Bulls visited the White House, news comes that two Bulls legends have died. Johnny "Red" Kerr, the first coach of the Chicago Bulls who went on to spend more than 30 years as a broadcaster with the National Basketball Association team, died yesterday. He...

By Patricia Sullivan | February 27, 2009; 12:30 PM ET | Comments (0)

Founder of Spring Break Dies

The man who brought hordes of hormone-crazed college students to Fort Lauderdale -- and then revived the beach after the city raised the drinking age and banned open containers -- has died. Bob Gill also founded the Yankee Clipper Hotel, which was featured in a number of movies....

By Patricia Sullivan | February 27, 2009; 12:19 PM ET | Comments (0)

Drummer Extraordinaire

Jazz fans, drummers and regular watchers of the old Johnny Carson TV show knew Louie Bellson. When he made one of his many appearances in Washington at the Cellar Door in 1981, our reviewer said "Louie Bellson's hands move faster than the eye as they course the battery of 10...

By Patricia Sullivan | February 17, 2009; 11:15 AM ET | Comments (1)

Please welcome...

Please welcome our longtime colleague Joe Holley to the Murderers' Row photo, above....

By Patricia Sullivan | February 16, 2009; 12:04 PM ET | Comments (2)

Why you don't want to die in Detroit

Don't die in Detroit on a Sunday -- because the newspapers aren't providing home delivery seven days a week there anymore, your friends will never know. Just think of their anger at your failure to return their calls and e-mails!...

By Patricia Sullivan | February 11, 2009; 12:28 PM ET | Comments (0)

Habitat for Humanity Co-Founder Dies

Millard Fuller, the millionaire entrepreneur who gave it all away to help found the Christian house-building charity Habitat for Humanity, died Tuesday. He was 74. Fuller died about 3 a.m. en route to a hospital in Albany, Ga. The cause of death was not immediately known....

By Patricia Sullivan | February 3, 2009; 11:22 AM ET | Comments (2)

TV, Quips and the Day the Music Died

The director and co-executive producer of more than 50 episodes of the X Files has died. Only someone who never attended rock concerts in the 70s would lead with "Sweet Home Alabama" for a Lynyrd Skynyrd musician's obit. Consumer demand was always exemplified by the guy back in the crowd...

By Patricia Sullivan | January 29, 2009; 12:34 PM ET | Comments (0)

John Updike Dies

John Updike, 76, a leading American writer of post-World War II suburbia, died of lung cancer Tuesday, Jan. 27. He lived in Beverly Farms, Mass. Audio of Updike in October 2008. In an autobiographical essay, Updike famously identified sex, art, and religion as "the three great secret things" in human...

By Patricia Sullivan | January 27, 2009; 01:27 PM ET | Comments (11)

VIDEO: WWII Pilot Shares Personal Account of War

World War II fighter pilot Quentin C. Aanenson, who died of cancer Dec. 28, fought an incredibly dangerous war. Ninety of the 125 pilots in his 366th Fighter Group died. Of the 20 pilots who had trained with him, 15 were dead or missing and two wounded within the first...

By Mike McPhate | December 30, 2008; 01:00 PM ET | Comments (0)

Notable deaths of 2008

We're not doing a notable deaths of the Washington area in 2008 (I was the only one here interested in doing it, and to do it properly it should be a communal effort). So readers will be missing some significant local people, but the LA Times has a nice retrospective...

By Patricia Sullivan | December 29, 2008; 11:19 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Voice of Nixon

The death of Mark Felt, aka Deep Throat, last week, took me to a website that has both audio and transcribed recordings from Richard M. Nixon's presidential office. No matter how often I've read these words, hearing the actual voices of H.R. Haldeman and Nixon still chills. "We know what's...

By Patricia Sullivan | December 22, 2008; 11:39 AM ET | Comments (0)

Remembering Sammy Baugh

Chat with obit writer Joe Holley at noon Eastern. Slingin' Sammy Baugh, 94, a record-setting passer, punter and defensive back who led the Washington Redskins to two NFL championships in 16 seasons with the team and whose wide-open style of play helped usher professional football into the modern era, died...

By Patricia Sullivan | December 18, 2008; 10:52 AM ET | Comments (0)

Adam Walsh Murder Case Solved

A serial killer who died more than a decade ago is the culprit who abducted and killed a 6-year-old boy in 1981, police in Florida said Tuesday. The boy, Adam Walsh, became the rallying cry for a movement that demanded authorities get serious about missing and exploited children. It's hard...

By Patricia Sullivan | December 16, 2008; 04:25 PM ET | Comments (0)

A Photog Who Went Anywhere for a Shot

One of the beauties of writing on the Web is that we can share links to research that we can't squeeze into the space that print permits. So it was with much delight that I was able to show links in the obit for Cecil Stoughton which revealed how he...

By Patricia Sullivan | November 6, 2008; 11:42 AM ET | Comments (0)

Key West Legend

If you have ever been to Key West, capital of the Conch Republic, you probably have heard of Captain Tony Tarracino. A saloonkeeper, boat captain, father of 13 and storyteller extraordinaire, his tales included running guns for Cuban mercenaries during the Bay of Pigs invasion. A B-movie, "Cuba Crossing," was...

By Patricia Sullivan | November 4, 2008; 11:01 AM ET | Comments (0)

Fleet Street Photographer Finch

Not to glamorize war, but it does provide moments that alert us to the joy of life. From the Times, the one in London: Terry Fincher, a Fleet Street photographer who died recently, remembered one episode in Vietnam when he was with the Life magazine photographer Larry Burrows on the...

By Patricia Sullivan | October 9, 2008; 05:43 PM ET | Comments (4)

Steve Jobs, Still Kicking

Not dead. Nope. Nada. You'd think people (and I'm talking you, stock traders) would check first. But still, one of those anonymous posters over at CNN put up a false report this morning of the Apple co-founder's demise, and the stock price dipped. It was just a bit over a...

By Patricia Sullivan | October 3, 2008; 04:59 PM ET | Comments (0)

Steve Fossett believed found

UPDATE: Searchers believe they have found the remainsof adventurer Steve Fossett, whose plane was discovered yesterday. A hiker in a rugged part of eastern California found a pilot's license and other items possibly belonging to Steve Fossett, the adventurer who vanished on a solo flight in a borrowed plane more...

By Patricia Sullivan | October 1, 2008; 05:17 PM ET | Comments (0)

New Technology, Old Ritual

We're all in favor of technology here, especially if it helps the news get out, but Twittering a funeral seems a bit over the line, akin to a play-by-play of a burial rite. Twitter, for those who don't spend every waking moment keeping up with new technology, is a way...

By Patricia Sullivan | September 25, 2008; 02:40 PM ET | Comments (5)

The Mystery Writer

I first met James Crumley, who died Tuesday, in 1985, shortly after I moved to Missoula, Montana. Missoula was and is a town full of writers, so I decided to create a set of short profiles showing where and how a few of them worked. I did short pieces on...

By Patricia Sullivan | September 19, 2008; 10:02 AM ET | Comments (0)

Duck Girl of New Orleans

Truth is stranger than fiction, especially in New Orleans. The famous Duck Girl of New Orleans, Ruth Grace Moulon, an eccentric who zoomed from bar to bar on roller skates, often wearing a ratty fur coat or wedding gown and trailed by a string of her beloved ducks, died Sept....

By Patricia Sullivan | September 17, 2008; 12:40 PM ET | Comments (0)

Famed shark fisherman Frank Mundus dies

Frank Mundus, believed to be the inspiration for the shark-fishing captain Quint in the movie "Jaws," has died. He forged his reputation as a fearless fisherman in Montauk beginning in 1951, hunting down the world's biggest sharks. "I had a lot of close calls," he once said. "Probably too many...

By Patricia Sullivan | September 15, 2008; 11:50 AM ET | Comments (0)

Terrible-Tempered Tommy Bolt

AP is reporting that Tommy Bolt, the 1958 U.S. Open champion who had one of golf's sweetest swings and most explosive tempers, has died. He was 92. Bolt won 15 Professional Golfers Association events and several more titles on the seniors tour. Yet his temper gained him the most notoriety....

By Patricia Sullivan | September 3, 2008; 12:27 PM ET | Comments (0)

Ike Pappas, CBS newsman

Ike Pappas, 75, the CBS newsman who reported, live on the radio, the shooting of JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, died Sunday in Arlington of complications from heart disease. In 1987, he was among more than 200 employees laid off by the company....

By Patricia Sullivan | September 2, 2008; 12:36 PM ET | Comments (15)

Steve Jobs's Premature Obituary

Yikes;every obit writer's nightmare, publishing an obit before the subject dies. In this case, Bloomberg News Service was updating its file on Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, when someone erred....

By Patricia Sullivan | August 28, 2008; 01:14 PM ET | Comments (0)

Running Out of Time

Dave Freeman, co-author of adventure travel book "100 Things to Do Before You Die" has died at age 47 after an accidental fall at his home, a rather mundane end given the activities he advocated. His family said he had completed about half the adventures he listed (his co-author had...

By Patricia Sullivan | August 26, 2008; 10:59 AM ET | Comments (13)

Congressional Deaths

There have been six deaths of sitting members of Congress in the past 18 months, and with the death of Stephanie Tubbs Jones last night, three of them were African-American women. The others were Julia Carson of Indiana who died Dec. 15, 2007 and Juanita Millender-McDonald who died April 22,...

By Patricia Sullivan | August 21, 2008; 02:01 PM ET | Comments (2)

Originator of R&B dies

Jerry Wexler, the producer and partner at Atlantic Records who coined the term "rhythm and blues," has died. He worked with all the greats: Aretha, Ray, Wilson, as well as some of the greats of rock and roll. Rolling Stone put up a great playlist of the tunes of which...

By Patricia Sullivan | August 15, 2008; 01:40 PM ET | Comments (1)

Julia Child was a spy

This has the makings of the most popular National Archives download of all time: Details about Julia Child's background and nearly 24,000 other OSS employees are revealed in the newly released documents, withheld from public view as classified records for decades by the CIA. The 750,000 documents identify the vast...

By Patricia Sullivan | August 14, 2008; 02:36 PM ET | Comments (1)

Pentagon Papers figure dies

When someone says "Pentagon Papers," the name that almost everyone remembers is Daniel Ellsberg. But there were others involved in copying and distributing the secret history of the Vietnam war, and Ellsberg wasn't the only one prosecuted for it. Anthony Russo, another Rand Corp. analyst and a committed activist who...

By Patricia Sullivan | August 8, 2008; 01:07 PM ET | Comments (6)

Wildland firefighter deaths

Once you see the work of wildland firefighters, you never forget it. These young men and women confront one of the most dangerous forces in nature on some of the roughest terrain in hot and uncomfortable circumstances. Armed with little more than hand tools, an occasional chainsaw and the hope...

By Patricia Sullivan | August 7, 2008; 05:18 PM ET | Comments (0)

Head Start Leader, Ex-Surgeon General Dies

Word just arrived that Julius B. Richmond, 91, the first director of Head Start and former U.S. Surgeon General who fought a career-long battle against cigarette smoking, died Sunday at his home in Brookline, Mass. He had cancer. He was someone who had a big impact on public health in...

By Patricia Sullivan | July 29, 2008; 12:36 PM ET | Comments (0)

Obit on the Politics Page

Sometimes you hear a tale about someone from the past so vivid, so funny and so surprising that you wish you had a chance to write his obit. But Jonathan Weisman and Madonna Lebling did a fine delayed obit, on the politics page no less, about John McCain's maternal grandfather....

By Patricia Sullivan | July 23, 2008; 11:54 AM ET | Comments (0)

Why Read Obits?

We'll have a story in tomorrow's Washington Post (here it is ) that is yet another example of why people read obits. A man with the obit-worthy surname of Graves wrote in an e-mail "My father was a pre-eminent reader of newspapers, both the Post and numerous Russian newspapers.... In...

By Patricia Sullivan | July 17, 2008; 01:56 PM ET | Comments (8)

It's All Relative

The "survivors paragraph" in a typical Washington Post obit is fairly rigidly formatted, and for good reason: It's quite common for people, who define family broadly, to seek to include what my grandmother called "shirt-tail relations." It's also unfortunately common for some people to try to exclude a family rival,...

By Patricia Sullivan | July 15, 2008; 11:48 AM ET | Comments (0)

Deaths Around the World

Not all hermits are wackos. Rolan Craig, a Coloradoan who died June 12 just days shy of her 110th birthday, could shoot, fish, ride horses, herd pigs and cows and "made the best peanut butter cookies in the world," said her great-granddaughter. From vacuum tubes to the Internet, this inventor...

By Patricia Sullivan | June 26, 2008; 11:10 AM ET | Comments (0)

Osama in the Obits

The constant tension between families who wish to see their dead relative's life through rose-colored glasses and those of us who insist on a more balanced report (yes, even in the obits) gives rise to some interesting discussions. I had one last week in which a bereft friend said "I...

By Patricia Sullivan | June 24, 2008; 10:59 AM ET | Comments (0)

Tim Russert Dies

Meet the Press host Tim Russert died today. Our story online; we'll have a fuller story later....

By Patricia Sullivan | June 13, 2008; 03:50 PM ET | Comments (0)

Untidy Lives, Family Warfare

If you ever have too much of your perfectly happy extended family life, I invite you to sit a few days on a newspaper obituary desk. That almost-formulaic paragraph in most obits that starts "Survivors include..." can be a minefield and one should venture into it with extreme caution. I'm...

By Patricia Sullivan | June 12, 2008; 01:34 PM ET | Comments (3)

Brits' Bad Behavior

My old colleague, Jim Ledbetter, did a nice little piece for Slate on how he sees obits after two years in London. He thinks the English versions are just "too frank, too judgmental, too, well ... mean" for American newspapers. (He's right.) Timothy Noah also opined a few years ago...

By Patricia Sullivan | June 6, 2008; 11:11 AM ET | Comments (2)

The Sixties Aren't Dead

Who would have figured that both Bo Diddley and Alton Kelley, the guy who helped start the whole hippie scene in San Francisco would have died within days of each other? Kelley, who drew iconic posters for rock and roll concerts in San Francisco, even drew a few for Diddley's...

By Patricia Sullivan | June 3, 2008; 04:52 PM ET | Comments (0)

Searching the World

The vast majority of our obits originate from families who contact us, but that's not always the case. We keep an eye on the newswires and Internet newsgroups where people who like obits congregate, we all have sources in various communities who alert us when someone notable has died, and...

By Patricia Sullivan | May 20, 2008; 02:00 PM ET | Comments (0)

Extending His Warranty

We are what we do, to a large extent, and Milton Altman was used to calculating what is and is not a good deal. So when the retired drapery salesman bought a used car at the age of 95, he rejected an extended warranty on the grounds that it was...

By Patricia Sullivan | May 7, 2008; 12:23 PM ET | Comments (0)

Is Robert L. Vesco Dead?

What do you think: Did Robert Vesco die quietly in Cuba last November, or is this yet another vanishing act?...

By Patricia Sullivan | May 5, 2008; 12:02 PM ET | Comments (2)

Here's to the Crazy Ladies

We just got a note from a reader from Scotland who asked for an obit of Deborah Palfrey, the D.C. Madam, who committed suicide yesterday at her mother's house. He argued for a formal obituary on this basis: " -- If one of her diaper wearing clients from the senate...

By Patricia Sullivan | May 2, 2008; 01:43 PM ET | Comments (0)

Watergate's Enduring Stories

One of the major reasons that the Washington Post became nationally prominent was its coverage of the Watergate scandal, starting in 1972. It's a complex story but the ramifications continue to this day. (The Post's online operation has a pretty good special report, with a useful timeline.) The key players...

By Patricia Sullivan | April 28, 2008; 06:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

What Women Can Expect

Very interesting report, article and talk about life expectancy for women dropping for the first time since the Spanish influenza of 1918. The culprits are, at least in part, those old bugaboos, smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise. Or, as medical writer Dr. David Brown writes: The trend appears...

By Patricia Sullivan | April 22, 2008; 11:35 AM ET | Comments (0)

Boomers Face Reality

As boomers age, obits and end-of-life issues grow more prominent (in their minds, at least). Reading the April 7 issue of the New Yorker (Oh, admit it, you don't read it all the moment it arrives, either), I came across an entertaining Michael Kinsley piece on what he's learned in...

By Patricia Sullivan | April 21, 2008; 06:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Shudder and a Giggle

We write a lot of obits here, but the endless variety of people's lives still give us a giggle (and sometimes a shudder). For example, here's a guy you wouldn't want to run into if you were in a dark alley carrying goods of uncertain origin. Chopper Howard was a...

By Patricia Sullivan | April 10, 2008; 11:30 AM ET | Comments (2)

Holocaust Witnesses

The obit we ran today of Eddie Willner is the sort of story that makes even non-Jews vow "Never again." He was an amazing man and his willingness to recount a terrible moment in history serves all of society. I've used the website affiliated with the U.S. Holocaust Museum from...

By Patricia Sullivan | April 8, 2008; 01:24 PM ET | Comments (0)

Slug This Story "Oops"

As I tracked down the story on this fake advertisement , I was reminded of something that Bob Woodward asked me eight months ago: Do obit writers check to make sure the people we write about really are dead? When he first got to the Post, his old pal Carl...

By Patricia Sullivan | April 2, 2008; 12:06 PM ET | Comments (2)

The Season of Obits

When do people die? It sounds like a Buddhist koan or a bad vaudeville joke but for obit writers, the answer is clear; around the winter holidays and as the cold season comes to a close. It's that time of year (and has been for about a month) in Washington...

By Patricia Sullivan | March 18, 2008; 11:13 AM ET | Comments (1)

Too Good to Check

From Reuters: The mayor of a village in southwest France has threatened residents with severe punishment if they die, because there is no room left in the overcrowded cemetery to bury them. In an ordinance posted in the council offices, Mayor Gerard Lalanne told the 260 residents of the village...

By Patricia Sullivan | March 6, 2008; 02:17 PM ET | Comments (0)

The Fat Lady Sings for Thee

Any serious obit writer has more obits to do than she can handle. Some worthy ones never get completed. I'm not evolved enough to be an opera fan so I can't tell you how well known these people were, but it's tres interesting to read the obits in Opera News...

By Patricia Sullivan | February 22, 2008; 11:04 AM ET | Comments (0)

Which Ex-Wife Called?

From today's Baltimore Sun, whose obit writers usually do admirable work: "Because of insufficient information given to The Sun, an obituary published in Saturday's editions for Col. William L. Rawlings Jr., a retired Baltimore police officer, failed to mention that five earlier marriages had ended in divorce." As our first...

By Patricia Sullivan | February 19, 2008; 10:43 AM ET | Comments (9)

Hidden Stories

We've all had the experience of looking up a word in the dictionary and being distracted by another fascinating word, or looking on a bookshelf for one tome, only to find a related and utterly fascinating tale. So it was for me Friday, while working on Dr. Edward Chao's obit....

By Patricia Sullivan | February 9, 2008; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (3)

Death, Taxes, James Joyce

It's tax season, so it wasn't unusual to get a phone call yesterday from someone at the accounting firm that's handled my taxes for the past 20 years. But this wasn't a normal call about deductions or liabilities; my accountant and her husband died of hypothermia after their canoe overturned...

By Patricia Sullivan | January 25, 2008; 11:41 AM ET | Comments (0)

Youth Movement in Obits?

Heath Ledger's death yesterday at the age of 28, and the acknowledgment by the Associated Press that they've pre-written an obit for Britney Spears, who's all of 26, raises the issue of how prepared can obit writers be for the deaths of young celebrities. The answer? Not very. Of the...

By Patricia Sullivan | January 23, 2008; 12:49 PM ET | Comments (1)

When You Know The Subject

It's always hard to write about the death of someone you know, as Matt Schudel mentioned not too long ago. For me, the most recent example came yesterday, when a friend called to alert me that Fran Lewine died. Fran, a congenitally cheerful soul, was one of the women who...

By Patricia Sullivan | January 21, 2008; 11:34 AM ET | Comments (0)

Hurricane Alley

Great little obit in the Miami Herald yesterday about an outdoorswoman who was driven from her home by one hurricane and driven from her business by another. Wish the story would have been written better, but there are a couple of nuggets in there: "They lived in a stilt house...

By Patricia Sullivan | January 2, 2008; 11:35 AM ET | Comments (0)

Variety of Life

Anyone who lived in the American West in the spring and summer of 1993 remembers the unexplained string of deaths of (mostly) rural residents. I have a vivid memory of camping in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and thinking about the ways that virus can be transmitted -- while...

By Patricia Sullivan | December 23, 2007; 12:59 PM ET | Comments (0)

Showmen's Rest

In writing an obit of pilot and poet Ann Darr, I heard from her daughter that Mrs. Darr wanted her tombstone to read: "Late in life, she ran away from home and joined the circus." As fate would have it, she was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Forest Park, Ill....

By Patricia Sullivan | December 11, 2007; 11:02 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Broken nibs and faulty cartridges were no match for Chicago's last pen doctor. It'a almost February for New Orleanians, who mark the year by Mardi Gras. A well-known float builder will be missing this year. Just five weeks after the death of the Rice-A-Roni creator and founder of the Napa...

By Patricia Sullivan | December 9, 2007; 10:54 AM ET | Comments (0)

Obits as Movies

So Tom Hanks is about to release his new movie, "Charlie Wilson's War", which should be hilarious and scary all at once. I know this because of two obits -- not the former congressman known as "Good Time Charlie" (he had a heart transplant in September), but his sidekick, Gust...

By Patricia Sullivan | December 4, 2007; 12:35 PM ET | Comments (1)

New Life on the Obits Desk

Alert readers may have noticed, and welcomed, the return of veteran Joe Holley to the obits pages. Joe, whose background includes stints as a magazine editor, editorial page editor and deputy press secretary to a governor, is our resident Texan. We're happy he's back on the beat after six months...

By Patricia Sullivan | November 27, 2007; 12:53 PM ET | Comments (1)

So You Wanna Be a Rock 'N Roll Star....

At the end of a phone call this morning, the caller said she had one more question. "Do you have any openings?" she asked. " I've been reading the obits since my mother got sick, knowing that I'd have to write something for an obit, and I'm thinking I'd like...

By Patricia Sullivan | November 19, 2007; 04:37 PM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Before you do anything else, read this obit about the Rev. John Cross Jr., the pastor of the Birmingham, Ala. church where four little girls died in a firebombing. Who taught Martha Stewart those homemaking skills? Her mother, of course. When it was harder for women to get credit, some...

By Patricia Sullivan | November 18, 2007; 11:03 AM ET | Comments (0)

Who Said It First?

We get a lot of e-mail here but today's mail brings in a query from one of the volunteer editors at Wikipedia who's trying to resolve which astronaut first quipped that as he waited for launch into space, he thought "Every part of this ship was built by the low...

By Patricia Sullivan | November 15, 2007; 10:33 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

Good morning! We lost of a couple of environmental leaders: Peter Berle who proved the National Audubon Society was "no longer just for the birds," and John Firor, whose book about global climate change and ozone depletion was called was "about as agreeable as a dose of ipecac," for generating...

By Patricia Sullivan | November 12, 2007; 10:44 AM ET | Comments (0)

Admirable Names

Since one of the rules of journalism is Get the Names Right, and since names are so integral to everyone's identity, I have a weird fascination with some of the monickers that pass by our eyes. Matt Schudel already told you about Mr. Gray, born of a woman named Black,...

By Patricia Sullivan | November 7, 2007; 10:38 AM ET | Comments (0)

Fabulous Moolah or Jo Nobody?

Here's the dilemma of working obits: Do we choose the entertaining life story of the Fabulous Moolah or the gazillion smaller obits of local residents? It's pretty obvious what writers and obit fans like to read; but people who actually subscribe to the paper (the ones who pay the bills)...

By Patricia Sullivan | November 6, 2007; 11:40 AM ET | Comments (2)

Nixon on Jews

In case anyone ever asks you why some people still have an anti-Nixon complex, here's a small reminder. I'm writing about Harold Goldstein, a former Bureau of Labor Statistics man who died last week at the age of 93. (The obit will be in the paper and online in...

By Patricia Sullivan | November 5, 2007; 02:30 PM ET | Comments (0)

A Matter of Perspective

I'm working on an obit of a former deputy chief of police in Washington, and as I write, it occurs to me how much depends on perspective. This man was known within the police force as "Gentleman Jim," and by demonstrators in the 1960s and 1970s as "Mad Dog Davis."...

By Patricia Sullivan | November 2, 2007; 03:55 PM ET | Comments (0)

The Daily Goodbye

We're going to try something new; a morning roundup of notable national and international deaths. We're going to assume you have already read the best obits in the business; if not, go there now. We'll wait. And now for the breaking news: Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the Enola Gay...

By Patricia Sullivan | November 1, 2007; 10:51 AM ET | Comments (4)

News Obits and Funeral Services

Should news obituaries contain information about memorial and funeral services? At The Washington Post, the answer is no. Our long-standing policy says since we're writing about a person's life on the occasion of their death, service information doesn't belong in the article. But from time to time, readers question that...

By Patricia Sullivan | October 30, 2007; 04:41 PM ET | Comments (0)

Clusters Continued

It used to be that one of the "perks" of the low-paying journalism game was that you were pretty sure of getting an obit in your own paper when you died. That promise went away when the numbers of reporters and editors boomed in the 1970s and 1980s. And although...

By Patricia Sullivan | October 28, 2007; 11:58 AM ET | Comments (0)

Attending A Japanese Funeral

Considering the number of different cultures in the world, it makes sense that burial rites would vary. Here, a young Japanese who lives in the U.S. wrote about attending a Japanese funeral . Here's an interesting excerpt: I find this to be the most interesting, if not the most disturbing...

By Patricia Sullivan | October 15, 2007; 01:35 PM ET | Comments (3)

A Horse Thief in Your Family Tree

People who browse obituaries are often into genealogy, too. It's interesting, but sometimes off-point, to say so-and-so was the great-great-great-granddaughter of the cobbler to John Hancock. My grandfather, who jokingly claimed to be part American Indian because of his skill as a fisherman, warned us not to look too far...

By Patricia Sullivan | October 10, 2007; 02:56 PM ET | Comments (0)

The Nearly Un-Dead

Anyone who is a fan of good writing knows the work of Henry Allen. He's a Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and an editor now, but he writes too little, in his fans' opinions. Luckily, he has a piece today on the new wax museum that is sure to leave you laughing...

By Patricia Sullivan | October 5, 2007; 11:32 AM ET | Comments (0)

One Woman Ends Her Life

An unusual article this morning, from the Oregionian in Portland. Lovelle Svart, who had lung cancer for nearly five years, ended her life under the state's assisted suicide law. She wanted people to think about end-of-life issues so she and her former employer, the Oregonian, posted a video blog about...

By Patricia Sullivan | October 2, 2007; 11:18 AM ET | Comments (1)

Learning Journalism in the Summer of Watergate

There was something oddly familiar about the name on an obit I read this morning. I couldn't place it, or the photo that went with it, until I got down to this line: "Within a few years, she started a summer session course for high school journalism students at Catholic...

By Patricia Sullivan | September 26, 2007; 12:06 PM ET | Comments (0)

The depth of archives

Overlooked in the hoopla about Brand X removing online restrictions on its columnists is that they are also opening up the last 20 years worth of news archives to all comers. As obit writers, we are great fans of archives. We occasionally get calls from people doing genealogical research who...

By Patricia Sullivan | September 19, 2007; 02:32 PM ET | Comments (1)

Ways to Meet Your Maker

Few people want to leave this earth before their time; but who's to say when the right time is? I marvel at the dangers that surround us daily (Is that street grate latched? Ever consider how much trust we place in highway engineers?) and wonder that we don't see more...

By Patricia Sullivan | September 17, 2007; 11:22 AM ET | Comments (0)

A New Season

It's almost autumn, when work traditionally speeds up on the obits desk after a quiet summer. Except the quiet summer never happened -- we've been stretched to the hilt since May. Unlike a lot of major metropolitan newspapers, we write about the regular people of the region as well as...

By Patricia Sullivan | September 11, 2007; 03:14 PM ET | Comments (0)

 

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