exordia

"By writing or reading obituaries, we can discover ways to make our time on earth more worthwhile, more productive, more meaningful to others."
Alana Baranick, "Life on the Death Beat"


"'I always read the obituaries in The Times,' I explained to her. 'They make me bloody glad to be alive.'"
John Mortimer, "Rumpole's Return"

Henry Covington

Minister who served the homeless, the unemployed and the addicted -- via the Detroit News.

Timothy D. Findley

Investigative journalist -- via the San Francisco Chronicle.

Eino Tamberg

Composer -- via postimees.ee.

Elisabeth Beresford

Children's writer -- via the Guardian.

Clifford J. Doerksen

Writer, editor, educator -- via the Chicago Tribune. A funny and engaging writer who is well-remembered -- here's a tribute from the Chicago Reader.

Ken Lehman

Former MLB pitcher -- via the Seattle Times.

Brian Brocklehurst

Jazz bassist -- via the Guardian.

John Jones

Painter, filmmaker, teacher, Joyce scholar and magic-lantern expert -- via the Guardian.

David James George Hennessey, 3rd Baron Windlesham

TV exec, government worker and writer -- via the Guardian. Despite being richer than Croesus, he gave himself to working on behalf of the public, the truth, press freedom, education and prison reform.

Brian Stewart

Gallery owner, art expert and writer -- via the Guardian.

Jacob Maarse

Florist who gained fame with his home-grown roses -- via the L.A. Times.

Edward Cansino

Composer and conductor -- via the L.A. Times.

Lina Romay

Actress and singer -- via AP.

Bob Demmon

Rock 'n' roller -- via the Boulder Daily Camera. Bob formed the early surf-sound band the Astronauts in Boulder, Colorado in 1956 with his friend Stormy Patterson while he was a student at Boulder High School. They were briefly prominent, nationally and internationally. Bob later became an educator. Here's a nice profile of the band from Colorado magazine.

Neil Rogers

Controversial and outspoken radio host -- via All Headline News.

Janine Pommy Vega

Poet, performer and activist -- via janinepommyvega.com.

Robert Woods

Original bassist for the Hooters -- via the Montgomery News.

"Top deaths" of the year: who rates remembrance?

Now that 2010 is coming to a close, many news agencies are preparing their "top ten" lists of people who died during the year. These feature packages, complete with photos and blurbs, usually inhabit leftover feature space along with best movies, weirdest news events, etc.

It begs the question, "Who is worth remembering?" Our culture is obsessed with sorting and ranking human worth, and those who pass into the Great Beyond are not exempt from that. Of course, the mere existence of Obit Patrol shows that I am part of the whole crazy impulse to identify "notable" lives -- even though it implies that to not receive notice in print or on line if you pass away means your existence was meaningless. The dead escape our judgment, much as we'd like to think they don't.

And what about my limited perspective? I know as much as I can about passings in America, Europe, Australia, and parts of Asia. Language and culture separate me from so much of the rest of the world. I place as many significant lives from little-known areas of the world as I can each week, in the hopes that I can expand our sense of who's out there and what they are up to. Western culture has ethnocentric blinders on, and I hope Obit Patrol will help to bring more people, ways of life, and amazing experiences out of the periphery.

In six months of Obit Patrol, I have created approximately 1,500 obituary links. Each year, approximately 57 million people die worldwide. Obviously, the ratio is ridiculous. Even though I am documenting deaths, I can't give you a Top 10. The criteria that selects current significance is based in the petty concerns of the living, and will shift as time passes. One hundred years from now, will we remember the sitcom star, or the surgeon, or the human rights activist, or the guy who juggled frogs? And in what order? Who has made the most lasting impact for good?

That's impossible to say. Death is the great leveler, and posterity can't be touched by human hands. For all we know, it's those among the masses of the unsung who make pivotal changes that affect our lives today and generations to come -- people who will never have a monument or memorial.

Every human life is significant, long or short, good or bad. When I make my highly personal choices of lives to highlight, I hope that I am reminding us of what good we can do for each other, and what light we can bring to the world, in each of our crazy, busy, frustrating, humbling life spans. My tiny slice of lives remembered will have to stand for the whole.

Nearly everyone I know loses someone close to him or her in the course of a year. This post is dedicated to you and the web of souls that surrounds you, to the memory of those who didn't get a write-up but who lived and fought and loved and gave. May they rest in peace.

Fred Foy

Announcer for radio and television -- via the L.A. Times. His golden throat voiced the immortal opening of "The Lone Ranger" radio series from 1948 to 1956; he also announced for "The Green Hornet" and "Challenge of the Yukon." He later became the voice of ABC in Los Angeles. His utterly compelling delivery rightly placed him in the Radio Hall of Fame! Here's another tribute from boston.com . . .


Obit Magazine's Top Sites of 2010

The up-and-coming online magazine that treats the art of obituaries, and all things regarding the end of life, Obit, has listed its favorite sites of 2010 here. Please note that many of the sites chosen exhibit graphic photos and illustrations, cover topics many might find grisly or at least unseemly, and/or indulge in a morbid sense of humor.

This is in no way a lack of recommendation, merely a cautionary statement. Death is, like sex, a taboo topic that incites both fascination and dread. I hope, along with many others, to demystify the subject so that it no longer terrifies, confounds and alienates people. Obit, along with many other entities on- and off-line, is working to increase understanding, lend support and reduce fear. Thanks to all for their dedicated efforts this year!

We welcome "The Eulogizer"

Alan D. Abbey of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (jta.org) has begun a column, soon to be a blog, called "The Eulogizer," which will highlight "the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Learn about their achievements, honor their memories, and celebrate Jewish lives well lived with The Eulogizer. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org."

Welcome to our brother- and sisterhood, Alan!
 

Jean-Pierre Leloir

Photographer -- via Le Monde.

Nikos Papatakis

Film director -- via ilmanifesto.it.

Helen Roberts aka Betty Walker

Actress and singer, notably as a performer of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas -- via math.boisestate.edu.

Frank Bessac

A man with some extraordinary tales to tell -- via the Telegraph. He was a spy, a world traveler, a social anthropologist, an educator and a writer!

John Alldis

A simply splendid choral conductor -- via the Telegraph.

Sarah "Sally" Goodrich

Educator and philanthropist -- via iberkshires.com. When her son was killed in the 9/11 attacks, instead of vengeance she reached out to help people in Afghanistan.

Patricia Thompson

TV producer and documentary filmmaker -- via the New York Times.

Marcia Lewis

Actress -- via Backstage.

Lupe Gigliotti

Actress -- via correiodoestado.com.br.

Tony Castillo

Jazz trumpeter and former child actor -- via the Straits Times.

Brian Hanrahan

Journalist -- via the Telegraph.

SuZan Noguchi Swain

Nature writer and illustrator -- via the Sioux City Journal.

Glen Adams

Musician, composer, producer -- via the Gleaner.

Trudy Pitts Carney

Jazz keyboardist, specifically the venerable Hammond B3 -- via the Philadelphia Inquirer. Man, she could swing it!

Magnolia Shorty aka Renatta Lowe

Rapper -- via the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Steve Landesberg

Standup and improvisational comedian who parlayed his skills into many comedic acting roles -- via Variety. A very funny guy, master of the deadpan and droll understatement. He will be best remembered as Sgt. Dietrich on the TV series "Barney Miller." Most recently, he had a nice cameo in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" as Dr. Rosenbaum -- check out the blown-takes reel at the end of the film to see just how sharp he was! A real pro -- I'll miss him.

Anthony Howard

Journalist -- via the Daily Mail.

Rodica Tapalaga

Actress -- via westernboothill.blogspot.com.

Norberto Diaz

Actor -- via cineymedios.com.ar.

Tasso Kavadia

Actress -- via news.in.gr.

Martti Pennanen

Actor -- via iltalehti.fi.

Karen Tuttle

Violist and viola teacher -- via the Curtis Institute of Music.

Rachel Amos Bromwich

Scholar of medieval Welsh literature -- via hefenfelth.wordpress.com.

Tom Newnham

Human rights activist -- via Radio New Zealand.

George Pickow

Photographer -- via the New York Times.

Cozy Baker aka Hazel Cozette Oliver Baker

Kaleidoscope collector -- via the Washington Post.