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"

Skip O'Brien

Actor -- via voy.com.

Tal Herzberg

Sound engineer and producer -- via prosoundnews.com.

Gil Robbins

Folk singer -- via the New York Times.

L.J. Davis

Journalist, non-fiction writer and novelist -- via the New York Times. I HIGHLY recommend his novel "A Meaningful Life" -- hilarious and . . . meaningful.

Ellie Castillo


Performer -- via joemygod.blogspot.com.

Rolando Valdes-Blain

Classical guitarist -- via Yahoo News.

Sidney Lumet

Director -- via the New York Times. What a genius! He started in television and moved on to feature films. Listen to this very short list -- "12 Angry Men," the Robards staging of "The Iceman Cometh," the 1960 "Long Day's Journey into Night," "The Pawnbroker," "Fail-Safe," "Serpico," "Dog Day Afternoon," "Murder on the Orient Express," "Network," "Prince of the City," "The Verdict," "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead." One of the greats, especially when it came to exploring the dark corners of big cities and the human souls dwelling in those shadows.

ALL of those films influenced me profoundly. A personal anecdote: the first time "Network" was shown on network TV, I was living on New York City. During the famous "I'm mad as hell and I can't take it anymore!" scene, I opened my window and looked up Madison Avenue -- people were leaning out of every window, yelling out that phrase just as the characters in the film were. Hilarious, and an incredible tribute to Lumet's impact. We were all watching, Sidney, and it was brilliant. Thank you for everything!

The 'Salon of Death'

Elizabeth Pineau of Reuters describes an exhibit at the Louvre that illuminates the workings of the funeral industry.

Moulana Showkat Ahmad Shah

Religious leader -- via inewsone.com. He opposed violence, and was killed violently.

Muhabat Shah

Folk artist and cultural activist -- via the Pamir Times.

Edward Bigelow

Dancer and arts administrator -- via the New York Times.

Jean Jennings Bartik

Pioneering computer programmer -- via the New York Times.

Carla Grissmann

Writer and arts curator and preservationist -- via the Telegraph.

Roderic Fenwick Owen

Adventurer, travel writer and biographer -- via the Independent.

Bill Pitcock IV

Guitarist -- via News on 6.

Craig Thomas

Writer of thrillers, most notably "Firefox" -- via the BBC.

Mac McGann aka Michael McGann

This amazing portrait was shot by Branka Jukic.
Musician and graphic artist -- via the Independent. Really, a superlative obituary -- it's full of detail that makes its subject vivid. Read and learn, people!

Selwyn Goldsmith

Architect who focused on the concerns of the disabled -- via the Telegraph. He also worked hard to increase the ratio of public restrooms for women!

Ragnar Nygren

Early Swedish rocker -- via aftonbladet.se.

Thomas Proehl

Theater and arts manager -- via the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Obituary Cliches -- A Compendium

Here's a lovely post from David Wheeler on his "Deadline Diaries" blog -- Jade Walker of the New York Times shared the Society of Professional Obituary Writers' top five obit-writing tips, as well as the top 30 obituary cliches (to be avoided, of course!).

Here are the odious phrases that can stink up an otherwise well-written memorialization:


"1. She touched many lives.
2. He was my knight in shining armor.
3. He lived life/enjoyed each day to the fullest.
4. He never met a stranger/never knew a stranger/never met anyone he didn't like.
5. He'll be remembered for his smile/He brightened a room with his smile.
6. He only saw the best in people.
7. He had a twinkle in his eye.
8. Her children were the most important thing to her/She lived for her family.
9. He was a people person.
10. She loved her grandchildren.
11. He was a jack-of-all-trades.
12. She was a consummate entertainer.
13. He was a man's man.
14. His true love was his family.
15. He was an icon.
16. There will never be another like him.
17. She was always learning new things/Her curiosity knew no bounds.
18. He was a world traveler.
19. She was a graduate of the School of Hard Knocks.
20. He was just getting his life together/She was turning her life around.
21. She was a role model for all of us.
22. He didn't talk much about himself.
23. He wasn't a churchgoer, but he was a very religious man.
24. They were married in their hearts.
25. Their marriage had a few bumps in the road.
26. He died peacefully with his family at his side.
27. She engaged us all with her witty conversation.
28. He left this life with no regrets.
29. She was a natural born teacher.
30. He would have wanted it that way."

John Jarvis

Film editor with a sure comic touch -- via the Guardian. He worked on Jones and Palin's brilliant "Ripping Yarns" TV series.

Tony Barrell

Writer and broadcaster -- via ABC.

Bill Varney

Oscar-winning sound mixer -- via the Hollywood Reporter. He was amazing -- additionally, he worked with Walter Murch to restore the definitive cut of Orson Welles' "Touch of Evil."

Thoger Birkeland

Writer -- via the Dagbladet. One of his many awards was Den danske boghandlermedhjælperforenings børnebogspris -- which sounds mighty impressive.

Sujatha

Actress -- via the Times of India.

Wayne Robson

Film and television actor -- via Northern Stars.

Vicki Scarlett

"Librarian, socialist, feminist, yoga teacher and campaigner for social justice" -- via Organized Rage and the Guardian. She also volunteered at the Globe Theatre.


Tim Harrison

Movie projectionist -- via The Daily News.

Paul Foote

Translator, linguist and scholar of Russian literature -- via the Guardian.

Patrick Conoley

Sculptor -- via the Guardian.

Scott Columbus

Former drummer for Manowar -- via Rock Edition.

Jamyang Jinpa

Buddhist monk -- via AFP. It is alleged that he died as a long-term result of being severely tortured after being arrested for protesting Chinese violations of Tibetan human rights in 2008.

Gus Koutroulakis

Purveyor of hot dogs -- via blog.al.com.

Mandi Schwartz

Hockey player -- via Yahoo Sports. Her struggle with leukemia inspired thousands to register as bone marrow donors.

Shiyani Ngcobo

Musician -- via worldmusic.net.

Catherine Potter

Flautist -- via Small World Music. This is a late report -- she passed away on Dec.3, 2010.

Dennis Maitland

Sound mixer and engineer -- via the Hollywood Reporter. He pioneered the use of both wireless mics and EQ in film sound production.

Thomas Anthony Starr aka the Duke of Broadway

Restaurateur and firefighter -- via the Winnipeg Free Press.

Iakovos Kambanellis

Playwright and screenwriter -- via the Guardian. His poetic cycle "Mauthausen" memorializes his suffering in a German concentration camp in World War II -- a non-Jew himself, he stayed until the last Jew could leave it.

Calvin Russell aka Calvert Russell Kosler

Singer/songwriter -- via contactmusic.com.

Tom Silverio aka Tomás Roberto Silverio Veloz

Outfielder for the California Angels -- via almomento.net.

Juliano Mer-Khamis

Actor, director, filmmaker and activist -- via UPI.

Ulli Beier

Editor, writer and scholar - via the Nigerian Times. He helped to publicize and promote the cultures of both Nigeria and Papua New Guinea.

Efrain Loyola

Flautist -- via Cuba News.

Charles Stapley

Actor -- via the Guardian.

Wally Peterson

Actor, singer and stage manager -- via Broadway World.

Barney Barnwell

Bluegrass musician -- via the Spartanburg Herald Courier.

Claude Stanush

Journalist, writer and screenwriter -- via the San Antonio Express. One of his stories for Life magazine inspired the film "The Lusty Men"; many years later, he wrote the screenplay for "The Newton Boys." Given the number of affectionate tributes to him, he did a lot of good and affected many lives in a positive manner!