exordia

"How are we to help those who die and those who have died?"
Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

"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"

Bob Welch

Guitarist, vocalist, composer; key but overlooked figure in Fleetwood Mac -- via MSNBC.








James Van Buren

Jazz and blues vocalist -- via Westword.

Dick Beals

Voiceover actor -- via the New York Times. He started off in 1949, doing kids' and small-animal voices in the great trilogy of WXYZ-Detroit children's action shows: "The Lone Ranger," "The Green Hornet," and "The Challenge of the Yukon." He was the voice of the Speedy Alka-Seltzer character in early TV commericals; he was the original voice of Davey in the religious claymation series "Davey and Goliath"; he even subbed as the voice of Gumby. A great talent!






Kathryn Joosten

Actress -- via the New York Times.

Ed Quillen

Writer and columnist -- via the Denver Post.

Henry John "Hank" Dire

Scion of the fabulous Bonnie Brae Tavern -- via the Denver Post. He was always there. Always. Never didn't see him there.

His parents started the place in 1934, and if you go in and look over the bar you will see a photo of it, sitting at University and Exposition. It is a lone building out in the middle of nowhere. Now of course it's in central Denver, and it has been a wonderful oasis of good pizza, nice folks, friendly service down through the years -- a great place to watch a Bronco game!

Hank Dire built on his parents' efforts and kept the place alive and well. I hope that his kids will continue the tradition for decades to come. Thank you, Hank!



John Fox

Comedian -- via laughspin.com.




Pete Cosey

Blues, soul and jazz guitar great -- via the Chicago Reader.






Matthew Yuricich

Oscar-winning special-effects artist -- via legacy.com . You can look at an extensive selection of his work here.


Bill Wohrman

Actor and teacher -- via the Sun-Sentinel.

Elias Snitzer

Physicist and inventor -- via osa.org.


Ray Bradbury

Writer -- via the L.A. Times.

To call Ray Bradbury a writer is insufficient. He was an imaginative river. He composed more than 30 books and 600 short stories. He wrote for the page, the stage, for radio and television and film – his screen adaptation of “Moby Dick” for John Huston is masterful.

He began in the age of the pulps, when sci-fi and fantasy was still despised kid stuff, and he has passed on now, in our Flash-Gordonish present times, many of his visions fulfilled. For better and for worse, he was my number one creative influence. Period.

I ran across him for the first time during one of my first trips to my elementary-school library. Like the little egotist I was (and am), I saw my name imbedded within his, and grabbed “S is for Space” for that reason. I can still see the cover – an inverted, harlequinade space-helmeted figure plummeting into a whirling galaxy beneath it. Every story in it: “Chrysalis,” “Pillar of Fire,” “The Pedestrian” – horrified me, captivated me, gave me nightmares, took me out of myself, inspired me. No writing had ever done that to me before.



I devoured his work, plowing through it all, pushed to fantastic realms through the power of his imagination. Every creature and work he referenced, I read up on, discovering the hair-raising pleasures of Frankenstein, Dracula, the Phantom of the Opera, Poe, Lovecraft, Welles, Verne, Burroughs, the Chaneys, Karloff, Lugosi . . . He wrote for radio? I started finding and listening to old-time radio. I sought his TV and film work, and began to explore around, under and past him to other sci-fi and fantasy writers, and from there to the larger world of literature, poetry, film, theater and all the rest. Ray Bradbury made me a writer.

Of course, I have had my imaginary falling-outs with him over time. A chronic overwriter, at times his prolixity was stupefying, his flights of rhetoric ridiculous. He would wax poetic at the drop of an eyelash. But time and again I would return to him, reading of Guy Montag, of Cooger and Dark’s Carnival, of the delicate, abandoned glassine palaces of Mars.



For me, his greatest achievements will always be the three early novels “The Martian Chronicles,” “Fahrenheit 451,” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” They spoke directly to me, building their universes within me. There is something wonderful in his ability to delineate the movements of history, the significant moments of human lives, the relation of society to the individual, and his architectural ability to construct a story, a musical sense of proportion and pace that is unrivalled.



(The virtues of his short stories are, at times, even stronger -- among the dozens of unforgettable ones are "There Will Come Soft Rains," and the the classic "Mars is Heaven," when it turns out that, for the first astronaut visitors, all their loved ones are on Mars . . . just waiting for them to go to sleep in their childhood homes so they can change back into monsters and eat them all up!)

I hope that enough of my worshipful study of him has rubbed off on my own work, rendering it readable. It’s good to know that he insisted on producing his 1,000 words a day, good or bad, for 70-some years. It’s an excellent goal for which to aim.

And, in the meantime and despite that, he has my profound thanks. In a largely isolated and unlovely childhood, Bradbury was my friend, one who could tell me the most amazing stories, one who gave me visions that told me of an entire world beyond the mundane. He inspired me to go and do likewise, to know that a life spent in the world of the imagination was a worthwhile ambition.

I will start re-reading my stack of battered paperbacks of his, the ones bearing the grandiose slogan “The World’s Greatest Living Science Fiction Writer” on many of them, all over again. He is so much more than that hopelessly hyperbolic title. He means the world to me.


Everett Ortner

Preservationist -- via the New York Times.


Jim Unger

Cartoonist -- via the L.A. Times.

Ellen Levine

Author -- via the New York Times.

Marina Keegan

Journalist and playwright -- via the New York Times.


From Yahoo News -- The piece below was written by Marina Keegan '12 for a special edition of the Yale Daily News distributed at the class of 2012's commencement exercises last week. Keegan died in a car accident on Saturday. She was 22.
We don't have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that's what I want in life. What I'm grateful and thankful to have found at Yale, and what I'm scared of losing when we wake up tomorrow and leave this place.
It's not quite love and it's not quite community; it's just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it's four a.m. and no one goes to bed. That night with the guitar. That night we can't remember. That time we did, we went, we saw, we laughed, we felt. The hats.
Yale is full of tiny circles we pull around ourselves. A cappella groups, sports teams, houses, societies, clubs. These tiny groups that make us feel loved and safe and part of something even on our loneliest nights when we stumble home to our computers -- partner-less, tired, awake. We won't have those next year. We won't live on the same block as all our friends. We won't have a bunch of group-texts.
This scares me. More than finding the right job or city or spouse -- I'm scared of losing this web we're in. This elusive, indefinable, opposite of loneliness. This feeling I feel right now.
But let us get one thing straight: the best years of our lives are not behind us. They're part of us and they are set for repetition as we grow up and move to New York and away from New York and wish we did or didn't live in New York. I plan on having parties when I'm 30. I plan on having fun when I'm old. Any notion of THE BEST years comes from clich├ęd "should haves..." "if I'd..." "wish I'd..."
Of course, there are things we wished we did: our readings, that boy across the hall. We're our own hardest critics and it's easy to let ourselves down. Sleeping too late. Procrastinating. Cutting corners. More than once I've looked back on my High School self and thought: how did I do that? How did I work so hard? Our private insecurities follow us and will always follow us.
But the thing is, we're all like that. Nobody wakes up when they want to. Nobody did all of their reading (except maybe the crazy people who win the prizes…) We have these impossibly high standards and we'll probably never live up to our perfect fantasies of our future selves. But I feel like that's okay.
We're so young. We're so young. We're twenty-two years old. We have so much time. There's this sentiment I sometimes sense, creeping in our collective conscious as we lay alone after a party, or pack up our books when we give in and go out – that it is somehow too late. That others are somehow ahead. More accomplished, more specialized. More on the path to somehow saving the world, somehow creating or inventing or improving. That it's too late now to BEGIN a beginning and we must settle for continuance, for commencement.
When we came to Yale, there was this sense of possibility. This immense and indefinable potential energy – and it's easy to feel like that's slipped away. We never had to choose and suddenly we've had to. Some of us have focused ourselves. Some of us know exactly what we want and are on the path to get it; already going to med school, working at the perfect NGO, doing research. To you I say both congratulations and you suck.
For most of us, however, we're somewhat lost in this sea of liberal arts. Not quite sure what road we're on and whether we should have taken it. If only I had majored in biology…if only I'd gotten involved in journalism as a freshman…if only I'd thought to apply for this or for that…
What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. Get a post-bac or try writing for the first time. The notion that it's too late to do anything is comical. It's hilarious. We're graduating college. We're so young. We can't, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it's all we have.
In the heart of a winter Friday night my freshman year, I was dazed and confused when I got a call from my friends to meet them at EST EST EST. Dazedly and confusedly, I began trudging to SSS, probably the point on campus farthest away. Remarkably, it wasn't until I arrived at the door that I questioned how and why exactly my friends were partying in Yale's administrative building. Of course, they weren't. But it was cold and my ID somehow worked so I went inside SSS to pull out my phone. It was quiet, the old wood creaking and the snow barely visible outside the stained glass. And I sat down. And I looked up. At this giant room I was in. At this place where thousands of people had sat before me. And alone, at night, in the middle of a New Haven storm, I felt so remarkably, unbelievably safe.
We don't have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I'd say that's how I feel at Yale. How I feel right now. Here. With all of you. In love, impressed, humbled, scared. And we don't have to lose that.
We're in this together, 2012. Let's make something happen to this world.


Edgar "Buddy" Freitag

Theatrical producer -- via Playbill.


Herb Reed

Singer; founder and last surviving original member of The Platters; member of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame -- via the Boston Globe. The Platters were one of the greatest doo-wop groups; Herb sang bass. He is the only one to appear on all of their nearly 400 recordings.






William Lee Miller

Historian -- via the Washington Post.

Kuly Ral

Singer -- via One India.

Dilip

Actor -- via the Times of India.

Leo Dillon

Illustrator -- via the L.A. Times.


Zvi Aharoni aka Hermann Arendt

Secret agent; the man who found Eichmann -- via the Eulogizer.



Pedro Borbon

Great relief pitcher for the Reds and others -- via ESPN. Also a memorable part of a good gag from "Airplane!" --

Eduard Khil aka 'Mr. Trololo'

Singer -- via en.ria.ru. Oddly, this Internet video hit starring Khul was originally not just nonsense syllables. It was a song called "I Am So Happy to Be Coming Home," about a cowboy riding home to his farm in Kentucky. It being Cold War Soviet Union at the time, he lyrics were banned due to their pro-American sentiments. Khul performed the song as it is known now. Fifty years later, it became a kitschy hit.