"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"
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"
Rob Walker discusses the pros and cons of the digital traces we leave behind online after we die -- via the New York Times. Can we, Pharaohnically, build eternity-challenging digital pyramids that will serve as electronic monuments?
Actor -- via Theater Mania. This seemingly perpetually distinguished-looking performer started on the stage, but is best known most his incredible number of appearances on TV and in films, usually playing authority figures such as doctors, judges and men of the cloth. His sober appearance did not mean he couldn't be funny -- on the contrary, he was a superb and sly underplayer.
Theatrical genius and visionary -- via the New York Times. She started La MaMa Experimental Theater Club in New York City in 1961. She somehow created and maintained a cooperative, forward-looking, tolerant, innovative performing space that was a major influence on the creative arts in the United States. She directed, produced, and did everything one does to keep an impossible dream alive. She did it! I met her in 1978 at a performance of "The Trojan Women" -- a show that ripped the top of my head off and redefined theatre for me. She changed my life and that of many others -- thank you, thank you, dear master! Here's a lovely portrait of her in the New York Times --
Actor, producer and director -- via the New York Times. He "grew up famous" as the oldest of two sons of bandleader Ozzie Nelson and singer Harriet Hilliard, who starred for decades as "Ozzie and Harriet" on radio and then TV. David and his younger brother Ricky were cast in the show and lived an odd kind of double life as family members on- and off-stage. Ricky went on to a moderately successful musical career; David maintained a lower profile. Ricky died in a plane crash in 1985; David lived a longer, and hopefully more tranquil life.
Popular singer -- via Broadway World. Don't remember her? She introduced these songs -- "Come Rain or Come Shine," "That Old Black Magic," "It Might As Well Be Spring" and "Moonlight in Vermont." Not too shabby! Her biggest hit was the country number "Slippin' Around," recorded in 1949 with Jimmy Wakely.
Writer, record producer, sound editor, screenwriter and director -- via the Independent.
Football player -- via the Buffalo News. An amazing player who was an offensive and defensive wonder (and he kicked!); he ran for 243 yards and FIVE TOUCHDOWNS against the New York Jets as a member of the Buffalo Bills in 1963. Saw him play for the Broncos in the mid-'60s; he was also a vocal civil rights advocate, and stood up resolutely for professional treatment, during his career -- in a time when African-American athletes were by and large expected to "shut up and play."
Citizen soldier -- via AP. An exemplary and dedicated participant in World War II. I rarely highlight the lives of veterans or combatants, but Winters inspired such devotion, and accepted his honors with such humility, that he deserves mention here. Much of his story was adapted into one of the best television docudramas in history, "Band of Brothers." Judging by his own statements, and those that served with him, he embodied the virtues of great leadership -- honesty, fairness, concern for his men, quick and decisive (and correct) thinking, and equanimity in life-and-death situations. His efforts stand for those of millions of others who, in all wars, attempt to end them as soon as possible by doing the right thing.
Film director -- via Deadline Hollywood. He worked his way up in the British film industry, and got started as a director in TV, on series such as "The Saint" and "Secret Agent." He filmed a few clinkers, but produced a diverse body of great work -- "Bullitt," "The Hot Rock," "The Friends of Eddie Coyle," "Breaking Away" and "The Dresser," to name a few.
Scientist who helped produce data that led to banning of atmospheric nuclear testing -- via the New York Times.
a list of all the victims to date of the shooting in Tucson on Jan. 8, 2011 -- via the Huffington Post. Regretfully, the mainstream media initially covered only the two most marketable deaths -- that of a federal judge and that of a 9-year-old of notable descent. All the victims are to be mourned by their loved ones, regardless of their media appeal.
Singer/songwriter -- via the Jewish Daily Forward. UPDATE: on her funeral services, from my rabbi:
"Debbie Friedman's great musical and spiritual legacy will continue for sure. Alah hashalom, peace on her gentle, sweet soul. Strength and comfort to her mother Freda and her sister Cheryl. The funeral is today (Tuesday) at 11am Pacific time (1/11/11 @ 11) and will actually be streamed live if anyone wants to watch. It will be at noon mountain time. You may access the live streaming video of the funeral at: www.tbsoc.org/debbie
May the memory of this righteous person who contributed and gave so much to the world, always be a source of blessing."
Journalist, then dissident, and finally government minister -- via the New York Times.
Legendary record producer, label owner and music retailer -- via the New York Daily News. His record store, Bobby's Record Shop aka Bobby's Happy House, was the first business owned by an African-American on Harlem's 125th Street. He moved on to produce everything from blues to R & B to doo-wop to rock 'n' rool to soul to rap to hip-hop -- over 50 years of musical history! Elmore James, the Shirelles, Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, Doug E. Fresh, Gladys Knight & the Pips, King Curtis, "Kansas City," "Ya Ya," Arthur Crudup's "That's All Right," "Tossin' and Turnin'" . . . No Bobby Robinson, no Elvis -- no Beatles -- no rap. Thank you, sir!