Thursday, February 17, 2011

When I was a kid I liked the newspaper mainly for the comics. As I grew older, I read the paper for the news and a few columnists. Now, with old age I turn immediately to the obituaries. I’m checking to see if my name is there and read about friends who may have passed on. I then read the Letters to the Editor because they are usually by people who are mad about something, and it makes interesting reading. I still like a few columnists. I get most of my news now from the internet or TV. The paper occasionally contains some local news of interest. The obituaries are what I enjoy most.

I guess I just have a morbid curiosity, but I read the obituaries in my local as well as my hometown paper even thought I haven’t lived there in over 50 years. I also enjoy the obituaries in the New York Times. I even have a book,”The Last Word,” that is a collection of interesting New York Times Obituaries. To make the New Your Times you must have done something interesting. For example, the book has one about a great teacher of the Classics at Harvard. He was the Mr. Chips of Harvard. There is also a good obituary about Orville Redenbacher, who revolutionized the popcorn industry. The one I really liked was about Babe Ruth’s little pal, Johnny Sylvester. This is the 11-year-old kid who was severely injured by a horse kick in 1926. The kid’s father didn’t think he would live so he sent a telegram to the New York Yankees asking for autographs to cheer his son. The entire team, including Babe Ruth, autographed a baseball for him. The Babe also told the kid he was going to knock a home run for him in the World Series. The Babe knockd three in one game. He told the kid he would knock another one in the next game, but didn’t. The Babe went and apologized personally to the kid. The kid survived and told the story for the next six decades. He died at age 74 and his obituary was in the NY Times.

I enjoy reading these interesting stories about just plain people who have done something extraordinary, I wish I could have known many of them in real life. If I had it all to do again, I would have tried to be an obituary writer for the NY Times.

One of the best obituaries I have read recently was by a 92-year-old cousin of by brother-in-law. The guy was very funny, even in death. His obituary was written in the first person. It started by saying he was dictating his obituary. Someone obviously filled in the blanks. One paragraph was a real jewel and said: “ I love you very much and I hope to see you in Heaven. For me to do that there are two things you must do. First, you must accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, follow Him and do His will. Second, you must pass away as I have.” Now that’s one of the neatest and most novel obituaries I’ve seen Iin a long time. Wish I could be that clever thinking things up, even in the face of death.

Anyway, this is all a little morbid, but you do learn a lot about people by reading their obituary. With some folks, that’s probably the best way to know them. I think I will just sit back on the porch and reread my New York Times Obituary book. It’s great entertainment as well as informative.


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