I am a regular obituary reader. I always scan them and most of the time I read the whole thing. I am fascinated by what is written about people once they die. My father is famous for many things; one of them is that he’s already penned and proofread his obituary and left instructions to send it to the local papers upon his death.
I thought about obits today when I saw a column about a new magazine in the Baltimore Sun by Nick Madigan. He writes, “Driven largely by the internet, interest in obituaries is booming, with a slew of websites and blogs dedicated to the craft, as well as a rise in the emerging field of commissioned obits, in both written and video form, made to order by people who want a say over how their legacy is described. The new magazine will be called Obit, and focus, entirely on these death notices, plus other related topics.
“What’s different now is people reading obituaries of people they’ve never heard of and loving it,” said Marilyn Johnson, author of The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Souls and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries.”
There are plenty of more stories to be told. There will be just over 40 million Americans aged 65 or older by 2010, so lots of obituaries to come.
If you’re like me and love to read obits, here ya go….
Obit Web sites
• “Notices of dead folks” is the straight-to-the-point description of a news group, alt.obituaries, that aggregates more than 100,000 obits.
• legacy.com: The site links to the obituary sites of more than 350 newspapers. It includes suggestions on how to place a newspaper obit and create tributes, as well as listings for flower shops and funeral homes.
• obitpage.com: The site of Carolyn Gilbert, founder of the International Association of Obituarists, editor of obitpage.com and a host of the Great Obituary Writers’ National Conference, includes a page called Great Obits, with hundreds of poignant examples of the craft.
• marilynjohnson.net: Marilyn Johnson, author of The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries, wrote obituaries for Katharine Hepburn, Princess Diana, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Johnny Cash and Marlon Brando for Life and other magazines.
• deathbeat.com: Alana Baranick, obituary writer for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and winner of the 2005 American Society of Newspaper Editors award for obituary writing, is a co-author of Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers.
• obituarywriters.com: Larken Bradley, obituary writer for The Point Reyes Light in Marin County, Calif., is also an obit writer for hire. Her service, Obituaries Professionally Written, provides obituaries for people who want their final story written before death or for relatives in need of death announcements or obituaries.