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"

Alberto Granado

Biochemist and writer -- via the Herald Sun. His travels with friend and future revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara through South America in 1951-1952 formed the basis of the 2004 film "The Motorcycle Diaries." The trip is credited with affecting both mens' outlooks on life and futures.

Frank Alesia

Actor and director -- via Yahoo News.

From the New York Times: "Play Dead"

A macabre theatrical performance about death and our fear of it: " . . . We realized that our own point of view is that when you’re dead, you’re dead. Therefore the only place you exist is inside those who know you. If you lived and you’re forgotten, you lived in vain.”

From the Roscoe View Journal: A "Postmortem" improv show

An improvisational show in Chicago that builds from obituaries in the Chicago Tribune -- via the Roscoe View Journal.

Canadian Press: Pompeii exhibit opens in New York

"Pompeii The Exhibit: Life and Death in the Shadow of Vesuvius" open at Discovery Times Square -- via the Canadian Press.

From National Geographic: Ancient death ritual discovered in Himalayan caves

Mortuary caves discovered, complete with de-fleshed (not cannibalized) remains -- via the National Geographic.

Erling Kroner

Trombonist, composer, arranger and bandleader --via b.dk.

Jose Conde

TV actor -- via Typically Spanish.

John Gruber aka James Finley Gruber Jr.

Pioneering gay activist -- via the L.A. Times.

Lars Gunnar "Lasse" Eriksson

Comedian -- via thelocal.se.

Edwin D. Kilbourne

Virologist -- via the Washington Post. He helped to develop anti-flu vaccines.

Dixon Palmer

Artist, dancer and tepee maker -- via News OK.

Goga Kapoor

Actor -- via the Times of India.

Johnny Preston aka John Preston Courville

Pop singer -- via the Houston Chronicle. A member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, his big hit was "Running Bear":

He also had a hit with a creditable if corny cover of Little Willie John's "Leave My Kitten Alone":

Monte Owens

Monte's swinging the axe in this photo.
Guitarist and singer -- via the Bronx Board. He was a member of the doo-wop groups Solitaires and the Mello-Moods.

John Adewole

Actor -- via sierraexpressmedia.com.

Reg Moores

Polymath -- via the Telegraph. He invented the wireless microphone, and evidently "taught himself to build nuclear quadrupole resonance spectrometers in his shed; in his day-job he was a professional ice skater, magician, barrel jumper, unicyclist, fire-eater, flea circus proprietor, and the European whistling champion of 1996."

Vitor Alves

Soldier who helped Portugal transition peacefully from dictatorship to democracy -- via the Independent.

Charles Jarrott

Film and television director -- via the Bellingham Herald.

Fateh Singh Rathore

Animal conservationist -- via the Telegraph. He risked death and bodily harm to save tiger populations in India.

Rosemary Gill

Children's television producer -- via the Telegraph. Her expert ministrations helped make the British show "Blue Peter" a long-lasting success.

Paul Marcus

TV director, script editor and producer -- via the Guardian. Among his distinctive creations: "Maigret" with Michael Gambon, and "Prime Suspect" with Helen Mirren.

Irena Kwiatkowska

Actress -- via thenews.pl.

John Haines

Poet -- via the Anchorage Daily News.

Roc Dukati aka Jamie Lee

Rapper -- via the Boston Herald.

Tom Herde

Exceptional photojournalist -- via the Boston Globe.

Paquito Diaz aka Francisco Bustillos Diaz

Film actor and director -- via the Manila Bulletin. An iconic villain in the Philippines movie industry, he could play comedy as well.

Warren Cassell

Bookstore owner -- via greenwichtime.com.

Anne Compoccia

Neighborhood activist -- via the Villager.

Walter Zacharius

Publisher -- via the Wall Street Journal. From romance novels to "instant" books to smut to born-again Christian sci-fi, he printed it all!

Thor Vilhjalmsson

Writer -- via sagenhaftes-island.is.

Loy Clingman

Rockabilly singer/songwriter -- via obitsutah.com.

Hazel Rowley

Biographer -- via the Australian. Here is her brilliant account of trying to get her biography of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir published in France --

Scott "Red" Cary

Pitched for the 1947 Senators -- via Bill Schenley and groups.google.com/group/alt.obituaries.

Henry Africa aka Norman Jay Hobday

Creator of the fern bar -- via the San Francisco Chronicle. Although the title to this creation, a swanky and overdecorated type of establishment that catered to upscale singles in the late 1970s and early 1980s, is disputed by another San Francisco institution, Perry's, Africa holds the distinction to date. (The lemon drop martini was created in his place as well.)

Ryan Hawks

Freeskier -- via the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

Roald Reitan

Baritone -- via the News Tribune.

Wally Yonamine

Athlete -- via the Daily Yomiuri. He was the first Japanese American to play pro football, for the 49ers, in 1947. He then played pro baseball for the Yomiuri Giants and the Chunichi Dragons. He is the only American in the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame.

John "Mike" Lounge

Astronaut -- via space.com.

Eddie Brandt

Pianist -- writer -- cartoonist -- movie memorabilia expert -- owner of Saturday Matinee video store, a trove of obscure gems. Via the Hollywood Reporter.

Agnes Davies

Female snooker pioneer -- via the Guardian.

Brian Burland

Writer -- via the Bermuda Sun.

Diane Izzo

Singer/songwriter -- via WBEZ.

Mark Ryan

Guitarist who turned to playwriting -- via the Independent.

Harvey Dorfman

Sports psychologist -- via Yahoo Sports.

Eugene Fodor

Violinist -- via violinist.com. A child prodigy from Denver, Fodor was the first American to win the Tchaikovsky in Moscow, in 1974. His later life was marred by substance abuse, but he kept turning out brilliant performances as late as 2008.


Jane Russell

Actress -- via the Hollywood Reporter. A buxom beauty of a film star, she could act but was rarely given the opportunity to do so. She was so breathtakingly attractive that her pairing with Marilyn Monroe in "gentlemen Prefer Blondes" is still a kitschy classic.
She started with a bang in the Howard Hughes drama "The Outlaw":

She did good work in "The Paleface," "His Kind of Woman," and "The Tall Men."



In later life, she became a spokesperson for the Playtex 18-Hour Bra, "for us full-figured gals."
For someone who was judged primarily for her appearance, she displayed great panache on camera. The best analysis of her career is here in the L.A. Times --

Netiva Ben-Yehuda

Writer, editor and broadcaster -- via the Jerusalem Post.

Bill Dunaway

Former owner, editor and publisher of the Aspen Times -- via the Aspen Times.

A. Frank Willis

Folk and country musician -- via the Telegram.