13 Apr 2012

Obituary Writing 101: What Not To Write in a Loved One’s Obituary

An obituary is a written notice reporting a person’s death that is generally published in the local newspaper where the person resided at the time of his or her death. It typically contains the highlights of the deceased person’s life, information about his or her surviving family members and information about the funeral or memorial service. A family member or friend usually prepares the obituary.

Although most obituaries paint a picture of the deceased person and his or her life in a favorable light, some obituary authors adopt a different approach to drafting an obituary. Here are a few unusual ones that caught my attention:

1.  Josie Anelo, a resident of Tampa, Florida, died on February 11, 2012, at age 94.  She was survived by her three children.  Her son, A.J., is apparently the author of his mother’s obituary, which contains the following description of Josie’s surviving family members:

“She is survived by her son, ‘A.J.’, who loved and cared for her; Daughter ‘Ninfa’ who betrayed her trust and Son ‘Peter’, who broke her heart.”

2.  Dolores Aguilar died on August 7, 2008.  One of Dolores’ children is the author of her obituary.  The following is an excerpt from Dolores’ obituary that appears in the Times-Herald Napa/Sonoma newspaper:

“Dolores had no hobbies, made no contribution to society and rarely shared a kind word or deed in her life. I speak for the majority of her family when I say her presence will not be missed by many, very few tears will be shed and there will be no lamenting over her passing…There will be no service, no prayers and no closure for the family she spent a lifetime tearing apart.”

3.  Dorothy Gibson Cully, a resident of Memphis, Tennessee passed away on June 3, 2005, at the age of 86. One of her four children wrote her obituary. Here are some inartfully drafted excerpts from Dorothy’s obituary:

“On June 3, 2005 at 10:45 p.m. in Memphis, Tennessee, Dorothy Gibson Cully, 86, died peacefully, while in the loving care of her two favorite children, Barbara and David.

“At the time of her death, Dot was visiting her daughter, Carol, in Memphis. Carol and her husband, Ron, away from home attending a “very important conference” at a posh Florida resort, rushed home 10 days later after learning of the death.

“Dot graduated from Eastern High School at 15, worked in Baltimore full time from 1934 to 1979, beginning as a factory worker at Cross & Blackwell and retiring after 30 years as property manager and controller for a Baltimore conglomerate, Housing Engineering Company, all while raising four children, two of whom are fairly normal.”

When it comes to writing an obituary, we should follow mom’s tried and true advice that “if you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all.”

If you would like to discuss this or other trusts and estates issues, please contact the attorneys at Drucker Law Offices, 468 North Camden Drive, 2nd Floor, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, 310.285.5375 Tel, 310.444.9754 Fax, www.druckerlaw.com

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