We are all heading in the same direction, and we likely share fantasies of writing our own obituaries and attending our own funerals. I have heard of people who did, in fact, write their obituaries before the fact, hoping those they left behind would choose to publish it instead of their assessments of the dearly departed. Attending one’s own funeral is obviously more problematic.
However they come to be, we Southerners have left behind some doozy obits, real laugh-out-loud creations that make us wish we had known the deceased ourselves — or maybe not. And while Southerners are champs at obituary writing, there are some outliers from elsewhere. Here are excerpts from several of my favorites.
William “Freddie” McCullough left us four years ago next month. His obit in the Savannah Morning News opened with these words. “The man. The myth. The legend. Men wanted to be him. Women
wanted to be with him. ... Freddie loved deep-fried Southern food smothered in cane syrup … Little Debbie cakes, ‘Two and a Half Men’ and Jim Beam. Not necessarily in that order. He hated vegetables and hypocrites. … Freddie was killed when he rushed into a burning orphanage to save a group of adorable kids. Or maybe not. We all know he liked to tell stories.” Freddie’s obituary was accompanied by a photograph of him in a white cowboy hat and a shirt unbuttoned almost to his waist and 72 more photos available online.
According to her obituary in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Ida Mae Russell Sills was born to unmarried parents. “In the 1930s, it was unthinkable for a child to be born to a single mother. … Her parents contracted (sic) Georgia Tann at the Tennessee Children’s Home. Georgia, now famous for selling babies, found a couple who was willing to purchase the child.” Ida’s first marriage “was a three-ring circus, engagement ring, wedding ring and suffering.” She married again. “Albert wanted a son, Ida wanted a dog.”
Albert prevailed, and Lee was born, followed by Denise. “As a professional armchair consultant to the NBA, Ida was nick named Hoop Mama Two. Ball handling and dribbling was (sic) Ida Mae (sic) biggest weakness.” Among her survivors is a grandson, Josh. “Ida regrets not being here to influence his future children, but she will be watching.”
Antonia W. “Toni” Larroux died in Missouri, and for reasons I do not know, her obituary appeared in The New York Times.
As a child, Toni contracted polio, “contributing to her unusually petite ankles and the nickname ‘polio legs’ given to her by her ex-husband. ... It should not be difficult to imagine the multiple reasons for their divorce 35+ years ago. Two children resulted from that marriage. ... Due to multiple, anonymous Mother’s Day cards, which arrived each May, the children suspect there were other siblings but that has never been verified.” Toni’s family requested, “Any gifts in her honor should be made to the Hancock County Library Foundation (to the overdue book fund). Toni’s obituary was accompanied by 28 online photographs.
A non-Southern obituary for Bill Eves from Kingston, Ontario, holds its own with almost any Southern obit I have ever read. It begins, “On Saturday … Molson’s stock price fell sharply on the news of Bill Eves’s passing.” My mother would have my hide for this, but it continues about the former school principal. “Perhaps most important to Bill was educating people on the dangers of holding your farts. Sadly, he was unable to attain his lifelong goal of catching his beloved wife Judy ‘cutting the cheese’ or ‘playing the bum trumpet’ — which he likened to a mythical rarity like spotting Bigfoot or a unicorn.” As per his wishes, a “Praise Bill Party” was held to celebrate his life.
And perhaps my all-time favorite was Harry Stamps’s obituary, which was written by his loving daughters and appeared in the Gulfport, Mississippi, Sun Herald. They described their father as “a ladies’ man, foodie, natty dresser and accomplished traveler. Harry was locally sourcing his food years before chefs in California starting using cilantro and arugula (both of which he hated). ... He had a lifelong love affair with deviled eggs, Lane cakes, boiled peanuts, Vienna (Vi-e-na) sausages on saltines, … and buttermilk served in martini glasses garnished with cornbread.” Harry was a member of a bacon of the month club, and “… his signature look every day was this: a plain pocketed T-shirt designed by the fashion house Fruit of the Loom, his black-label elastic waist shorts worn above the navel and sold exclusively at Sam’s …”
Harry’s family asked “in honor of Harry that you write your congressman and ask for the repeal of Day Light Saving Time. Harry wanted everyone to get back on the Lord’s Time.”
Given all this, I may begin work on my obituary today. I am a tad nervous about what the Precious Jewels might say on their own.
PHOTO: A non-Southern obituary for Bill Eves (above) from Kingston, Ontario, holds its own with almost any Southern obit.
PHOTO CREDIT: www.Yourlifemoments.ca